Being handed a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is a life-changing event. While the diagnosis itself doesn’t actually change how the symptoms affect a patient, the new-found knowledge does. A diagnosis offers both an explanation for past events and symptoms that seemed mysterious before, but also a foreboding warning about what the future will look like. Although MS presents differently in different patients and can progress at widely varied rates, all patients are aware of what the disease can ultimately lead to. From loss of vision and the ability to walk to severe cognitive problems, multiple sclerosis can quickly become debilitating and require patients to seek constant or regular care.
Although an MS diagnosis is definitely a scary event in any patient's life, it’s not a death sentence. Countless patients dealt the dreaded MS card have made the decision to fight back against the disease and its crippling affects.
While there are certainly countless stories about MS patients who have fought back against the disease, we’ve compiled two profiles below of stories about patients who have inspired us with their resolve and persistence even in the face of this difficult condition.
The power of positivity
When diagnosed with MS, it’s easy to become discouraged. Not only can the disease have a severe impact on a patient’s daily life, but the varied nature of symptoms and the irregularity of their occurrences can make treating them seem like a daunting task. Even so, when Cathy Chester was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis she took the news in stride.
Cathy began experiencing symptoms when she was just finishing college, but she wasn’t actually diagnosed with the condition until she was in her later 20s. At the time of her diagnosis, Cathy recounts how little information about MS was available to patients. Many doctors would explain the debilitating list of conditions to patients as if there wasn’t another option. While there still isn’t a cure for the disease, that doesn’t mean that your life is over, and it certainly didn’t end Cathy’s.
Cathy began her fight against MS by reading as much as she could. With more and more information about the disease, Cathy began to better understand the nature of the condition as well as the steps that she could take to counteract its effects. Cathy was fortunate in that she developed relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis so although she experiences flare-ups of symptoms that can be debilitating, they aren’t getting progressively worse. In addition to learning as much as possible about the disease, Cathy has used her information to adapt her daily life so that she can go on. Since being diagnosed, Cathy has gotten married and become a mother.
Cathy recounts that one of the challenges of living with MS is that the disease is often invisible. Although flare-ups can prevent Cathy from walking or make her so fatigued that she needs additional time to rest, outsiders looking in can’t see the disease. Because the symptoms of MS are invisible, onlookers may dismiss the severity of conditions or refuse to acknowledge them at all. While this can be discouraging, Cathy doesn’t let it get her down. She’s joined support groups and spends her time working to improve awareness about the disease and the affect it can have on patients’ lives.
You can read more about Cathy’s journey in her personal account at the Huffington Post.
Don't stop moving
When you’re young and just beginning your career, you don’t want anything to get in your way. Michael Fernandez was 25 and in the early stages of his career as a health and PE teacher when he was told that he had MS. Michael knew that something was wrong when he woke up with double vision. Problems with vision can be one of the common early signs of MS and after consulting a doctor, they confirmed the diagnosis. At the time, the prognosis was grim. Michael recounts how the doctor told him that he would be fine for a little while, but within 10 years he’d be in a wheelchair. This was not the news that Michael wanted to hear. Not only was Michael young and just beginning his professional life, but he had also embarked on a journey towards embracing a healthy lifestyle only a few years prior while in college. As a health and PE teacher, he didn’t want anything to slow him down.
At first Michael tried injections that had some fairly severe side-effects. After several years of this drug regimen, Michael’s liver became inflamed and he had to stop taking the medication. In his search for alternate treatment methods to help keep his MS under control, Michael came across research that suggested there could be a link between improved symptoms and a plant-based diet. His health lifestyle has helped Michael stay in a relatively good condition, and he hopes that when he does experience flare-ups or if the condition begins to progress in the future that his healthy lifestyle will inhibit some of the effects of the disease.
Michael’s experience as teacher as well as a patient with MS led him to embark on another opportunity. As he worked to embrace a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and plenty of exercise he was inspired to author and illustrate a series of children’s books focusing on this same subject. In addition to his children’s books, Michael has also authored two cookbooks for adults similarly helping to provide tips and advice on embracing health. While the symptoms of MS can often be debilitating, Michael decided that he would do his best to fight back. A healthy diet and a positive outlook can’t cure multiple sclerosis, but for Michael, it’s certainly helped keep him moving.
Read more about Michael’s experience with MS in his profile from My Central Jersey.
Cathy and Michael are just two cases out of the 2.3 million multiple sclerosis patients worldwide. The disease presents differently for every patient so the struggles and successes that Cathy and Michael have experiences can’t be replicated exactly in any other patients’ case, but they do provide some general principles that are important for fighting back.
In both cases Cathy and Michael took time to do in depth research about MS and about how it affects the body. Knowing about the disease and knowing about the effects it will have is a powerful tool in learning to fight back against the symptoms. Both individuals also did their research and work hard to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. While eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can’t cure MS, the better health a patient is in the less severe his or her symptoms may be.
The second principle from both of these stories is that no matter how difficult symptoms become, never give up. Cathy and Michael are both fortune to suffer from relapsing MS so they don’t face the symptoms on a daily basis, but they do live with the knowledge that a flare-up could occur at any time. Whether you’re suffering from relapsing or progressive MS, it’s important to remember that you should never give up. MS certainly affects a patient’s ability to function, but it’s important to think of it as a challenge that can be met.
In addition to Cathy and Michael’s stories, you can also check out My MSAA.org and read a long list of stories from other MS patients about their struggles and victories with the disease.