Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week!

Happy MS Awareness Week!

Exciting, isn't it?  Yippee!  Let's all talk about Multiple Sclerosis!  That sounds like a great party!  I want to go!

Or not.  Who wants to talk about these things?  Who cares?

I care.

My family cares.  My friends care.

Multiple Sclerosis is real.  It's "invisible," it's scary, it sometimes painful, and it's real.

Maybe you don't know anything about MS.  Maybe you've heard the name, but that's where it ends.  Maybe when you hear "MS" your mind immediately goes to a wheelchair.

I know a woman who was diagnosed with MS last August, just 7 months ago.  This woman looks "normal."  Some days she doesn't see as well as she used to.  Some days her legs are achy, or her head hurts, or she's so exhausted she sits on the couch all day.  If you saw her you wouldn't even know anything was wrong.  I would, though, because that woman is me.  

Most of you don't know me, but I'll tell you this: I am not sitting in a wheelchair right now.  I'm sitting on my couch, legs "criss-cross-applesauce," typing this post and watching SkitGuys videos on my husband's computer.  It's been a good day and everything feels fine.  On Saturday, though, I woke up with severe leg pain.  I took ibuprofen as soon as I woke up and again throughout the day.  Until I went to bed Saturday night, I was in pain.  You know what I did Saturday night, though?  I went roller skating with my family.  No one knew anything was wrong (other than my husband and my daughter's friend's mom, who also happens to have MS).  You can't tell by looking.  You can't tell by what I'm doing that day.  I like to tell myself I can do anything.


So what exactly is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease. (www.nationalmssociety.org)

What causes MS?

No one really knows for sure.  There are theories that say it's genetic, theories that say it's caused by a virus, or by the environment, by the foods we eat...no one knows.  It's generally accepted that MS is an auto-immune disorder, but no one really knows for sure where it comes from or what causes it.  Research is ongoing.  The National MS Society and other companies are trying hard to pin down the answers.  There are so many factors involved that it's a very difficult process!

Who gets MS?

Men do, and women.  Teenagers, elderly, children, middle-aged people.  White people, black people, green people.  MS can happen to anyone.  

Women are at least 2-3 times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than are men.  
Diagnosis is most common between the ages of 20 and 50.
MS occurs most frequently in Caucasians of Northern European descent.

So what do you do about MS?

Most people don't know they have MS until they have a somewhat major "exacerbation."  For me, it was 4 months of double vision, and nearly two years later, loss of vision in a field of my left eye.  A neurologist will diagnose, typically through an extensive series of tests, whether or not MS is the problem.  There are different types of MS, and a good neurologist should be able to tell, from both test results and medical history, the type.  

From there, most neurologists help patients choose a medication, often based on both MS type and insurance coverage.  Multiple Sclerosis medications don't, at this point, "fix" MS.  They're maintenance medications.  They help your body fight further exacerbations, in some cases cutting the amount of yearly episodes in half or more! Some doctors recommend changes in diet, as diet is theorized to be one cause of MS.  Whole foods diets are recommended (and really best for everyone), as they don't have the chemicals processed foods have.  Some neurologists will prescribe fatigue medications, some will prescribe pain medications, some will wait and see.  Treatment really depends on the doctor, the patient, the type of MS, and the severity of symptoms.


What can I do to help??

Whether you are aware or not, you likely know someone who has MS.  (I hesitate to say say "suffering from MS" because right now, most days my biggest amount of "suffering" is the hour or so after I take my injection, and then a few days late when the injection site starts itching.  Some people, though, truly are suffering.)  Whether you see it or not, someone you know is likely exhausted, or achy, or not seeing straight. Whether you know it or not, someone you know could use your help to have a brighter future!

The National MS Society is working hard to find a reason for MS, to find new treatments for MS, to find a cure for MS!  The only way they can do any of that, though, is through public funding.  It's important, and it's vital.  People depend on it!

The National MS Society is ALWAYS open to donations for the cause.  They'll never ever tell you no!  You can visit the website at www.nationalmssociety.org to find out more!


You can also help by joining a team and walking this year in one of the many WalkMS events around the country!  Find an event here and register today!  If you're local to the Indianapolis, Indiana area, I'd LOVE to have you join my team!  Think about it.  You could make a difference!  Join my team here!!

If you can't walk with me but would still love to help, please consider making a donation to my team!  Your donations will go straight to the National MS Society!  Every donation will put us one step closer to finding a reason for, finding a cure for, MS!  If you'd love to make a donation, visit my WalkMS page!  You won't win anything from me, you won't get any extra entries, there's no prize...for you, anyway.  The prize for me, though, and my family, and the families of your friends and family with MS, will be life-long!


Multiple Sclerosis.  It's silent.  It's real.


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