Color March Orange for MS Awareness Month

Besides having heard of Multiple Sclerosis, often referred to as MS, how much do you know about the disease? There are a few people I’ve met in my life with this disabling disease and they are among the strongest people I know. My friend, Paul, whom I’ve known since high school, is one of the 2.1 million people worldwide who lives with MS, having lived with it for the past 13 years. He’s been kind enough to share with me what life with MS is like for him.

Paul explained that he has relapsing remitting MS.  He has flare ups that occur and when they do, his brain tries to find a different path to do the functions the flare ups are affecting.  When this rerouting learning process happens, he’s not able to perform those functions as well as he once did.  For example, some of the flare ups Paul has had have affected his balance and memory, neither of which are as great as they once were.

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Currently, there is no cure for MS so Paul is managing his symptoms with a number of medications.  Despite this intervention, MS is unpredictable and flare ups can happen out of the blue when you least expect them.  When he does have a flare up, his course of treatment includes a trip to the hospital where he is given high doses of steroids to help his brain fix itself faster.  Paul explained it best by saying that “you never know what will happen.  You can go to sleep fine, and wake up with double vision.  I can be happy and cheerful walk into a store and bam, I have a hard time walking.  Every time I get a simple headache I wonder if its [just] a headache or if something bad is about to happen to me.”

A diagnosis of MS doesn’t come easily to doctors.  Paul and others I’ve known with multiple sclerosis have had to go through a number of tests to rule out other causes for the symptoms they’re experiencing before coming to a final diagnosis of MS.  At that point, a number of different medications can be tried to manage the symptoms which is also a time consuming process.

It’s no wonder why those whose lives have been touched by MS are so passionate about drawing awareness to the cause.  Annually, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society holds a number of different fundraising events all with the goal of raising money for research and bringing people together.  Check out their website to find out more about participating in a walk, bike ride and more.

His memory and balance may not be great but Paul does what he can to live life to the fullest.  Last summer, he and his lovely wife, Kristy, were married.  Together, they live with his condition, making the best of each day no matter what it may bring.  Kristy may take care of Paul and go with to his doctors appointments so he doesn’t forget what is said, but he returns the favor as best he can, not letting anything stop him from showing her how much he loves and appreciates her.  He’s no longer able to work but volunteers his time as a Cub Scout Tiger Den Leader and looks for other opportunities to stay active in the community.  It’s not what he would have chosen for himself or would wish for anyone else, but he’s accepted it for what it is and lives beyond the label of MS.  I’m sure his family and friends would agree that we’re all better for having known him and his strength is truly inspirational.

Take the time this month to learn more about MS.  The National Multiple Sclerosis Society website has resources available to help you better understand the disease and how to get involved.  Wear orange and help spread the word to help find a cure for MS.

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