March heralds MS Awareness month. But what does this actually mean? In my life, I’ve found that most people are ‘aware’ of MS; they have a 2nd cousin twice removed who has it, or, as my husband used to think, ‘it is something that affects your mobility… so you end up in a wheelchair’. Heck, I used to associate MS with wheelchairs… I remember being at Primary School, meeting a man using a wheelchair – he had MS.
But if I was going to raise awareness of MS, there are a few simple things I would like to make other people, those who have no personal knowledge and experience of MS, to be aware of:
Aware…. that MS is a ‘snowflake’ disease. We are all the same (have the same disease, Multiple Sclerosis), but we are all different. We may not all have the same symptoms and, if we do, they may not affect us in the same way. One example is mobility – I have problems with my left leg and I use crutches and a scooter. Another MSer may have problems with their hands, some may have to use mobility aids, some may not. Some may have ‘relapses’, where their mobility worsens, then get gets a bit better, others will have problems with their mobility 24-7. Not everyone ends up in a wheelchair.
Aware…that MS is often considered a ‘hidden’ illness. An MSer may not experience any obvious problems that are easy to see at first glance. But fatigue, dizziness, cognitive problems (such as memory loss, word-finding difficulties), blurred vision, numbness and bladder/bowel problems are all common symptoms. Most MSers will tell you that people will often say ‘but you look so well!’ Putting on a bit of blusher can help me look ‘well’, but unfortunately doesn’t eradicate the hidden symptoms.
Aware…that we are the same as you. People diagnosed with MS are wives, parents, boyfriends, children… anyone can be diagnosed, though it is most commonly diagnosed in the 20-40 age group. We have or have had careers and hobbies, we still like to socialise and do everything that you like to do…it just may be a bit more difficult for us. Those of us who are obviously disabled may ‘look’ different to you, but we are still the same person we always were, inside.
Aware… that there is ongoing research and new discoveries into new medications to help MS. Not everyone qualifies for them (again, it is that ‘snowflake’ disease again) but, compared to when I was first diagnosed in 1994, the options for treatment are massive.
Aware… that diet and lifestyle can have a positive impact on MS. Dr Roy Swank first looked into the link between saturated fat intake and MS progression in the 1950s (those with lower saturated fat intake progressed less and slower than those with higher intake). The Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis programme extends on this – through their Holism research, they’ve shown clear links between lifestyle and wellness in MS.
This is what I want people to be aware of during MS Awareness month… is there anything you would like others to be aware of?