Community Thoughts on Missing the Way Things Were

For people living with multiple sclerosis, it’s easy to dream of the life we had prior to being afflicted with this condition. So much of our everyday lives is shaped by MS, we often find ourselves missing the way things were. One of the amazing contributors at MultipleSclerosis.net, Marc Stecker (also known as the Wheelchair Kamikaze), wrote a poignant piece on missing his former self, called “I Miss Me”. We shared his article on our Facebook page and received a tremendous amount of feedback from our community about what it’s like to miss the “old you”. Here is what some of our community members had to say:

I’ve said the same thing to others!

  • Funny, I said that to my neurologist shortly after I was diagnosed last year.
  • I just said something similar to my sweetie the other day…that I would like to have my life back. I feel as though it’s been taken from me.

I thought I was the only one!

  • And I just thought it was me.
  • I really miss me!!!!!! I didn’t know there were others who felt this!
  • I despise that I “miss me” BUT am relieved that I’m not the only one “Missing”.
  • I always have moments of missing the old me. Glad it’s not only me thinking this way.
  • I say this so much, but when I try to put things on my page or try and explain how hurts, even my family ignores it. I was glad to see this and know I’m not alone. I say to myself every day I miss me.

I Miss Me too!

  • I miss me a lot!!
  • What a well-written blog which perfectly describes the life so many of us live. Or should I say have lived. I am amongst the very elderly whose future time on this earth will be very short. You too, will adjust constantly to your new normal.
  • I mourn and miss the old me. I can’t believe who I’ve become; however it’s a new challenge and who knows what I can be and what new experiences lie ahead that I would never have had. Stay positive guys.
  • I shared with a friend recently, “I miss me, who I used to be.” Her reply… “No, now that person is still down in there somewhere.” I’m exasperated. People really don’t know!!!
  • I just want the old me back!
  • Wow! This is the first time a tag line has smacked me in the face! Even though I’ve been very lucky, as I pondered this “I Miss Me,” I suddenly felt very sad. I do miss me. Even though I haven’t been “obviously” affected by MS, there are so many hidden things, the fatigue, weakness, ability to think quickly, balance, and stamina, that yes, I am not the “me” I once was. I do miss ME. Thank you for a great article.
  • What I miss about the old me is being able to do ANYTHING I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it!! Now, I have to accept the help of others, where I was the one always volunteering my abilities to those in need.
  • ‪I do miss most of the old me!!!! But I have welcomed most of the new me, with very few regrets.
  • I was missing for 15 years. I felt myself slowly slipping away, more and more the last 5 years though. It’s awful.
  • I understand just how you feel. I miss dancing a lot! Stay strong
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  • I miss myself so much! I just want to be able to be normal again and go to a ball game and climb up the bleachers and just walk around the yard without tripping in a hole and fix a meal or brownies without getting exhausted!
  • I miss me! I miss being able to bounce out of bed, being able to run, to dance to skip/hop/jump whatever! . I miss the reality of being able to chase my dreams. I miss me.
  • I have to believe that everyone misses the earlier version of himself or herself as they age, too.
  • Thank you for sharing. I say this a lot. I miss what I used to be able to do and can’t. I don’t even know who “me” is anymore. My identity was through my work and my child and all the things I could do for others and now I often wonder, “who am I?”
  • I am beginning to hate the new me!!!
  • I get so depressed if I start to think about original me.
  • I miss me like crazy!!!!! I say that to myself EVERYDAY
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  • I want to run, even though I was not a runner!
  • I read his blog, it’s so insightful. My every move is fraught with thought. I miss the “me” that was.
  • Great article! It’s depressing to think about what MS stole from me but I know there are others who have it worse than I do and I try to stay positive. Keep writing it helps to know I am not alone.
  • I want me back, but I don’t see that happening.
  • Just learning to accept there is a new me but so hard to let go of the old me.
  • Things that seemed so simple are now a struggle. Thanks MS–NOT!
  • I miss being me. Feeling like I can do anything. I miss having a job, and making money.
  • Wow, this is so powerful! I miss me and have been missing me for 16 years now! I don’t know how many times I say I want my OLD life back!

What about you? Do you miss a previous version of yourself? Please share with us in the comments!

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Myoclonus – heightened sensitivity and MS

There are many unpleasant symptoms that are well understood to be associated with multiple sclerosis, like fatigue, cognitive impairment, and spasticity. But there are also symptoms that occur in people with MS that aren’t commonly discussed, and may actually be overlooked by patients and physicians. One of our contributors, Matt, wrote an article about how his “startle reflex” is extremely sensitive, and it actually has a detrimental effect on his quality of life. This symptom, also known as myoclonus, impacts many people with MS, but it appears that many people don’t realize it was actually related to their MS. After reading Matt’s article, “Myoclonus – Why do I startle so easily?”, many of our community members shared their thoughts and experiences with us. Here’s what several of them had to say!

I experience this too!

  • I have this too!!!! Loud noises such as a loud TV or radio. People talking loudly or children screaming. My senses are all affected, including my hearing, eyesight, and smell.
  • So THAT’s what that is!
  • I have this problem too and I get really agitated by it. I’ve always been jumpy, but more so in the past 5 years.
  • I have this too. It’s gotten to where I can’t even be where there are large groups of people, and even the sound of my own voice will rattle me. And I have gotten to where I don’t like to talk or socialize at all because of how much noise bothers me.
  • I am also very sensitive to noise and I have strange sea like sound in my left ear.
  • Thank you Matt for an excellent accounting of your journey with Myoclonus. I too, have had a major relapse and experience a higher sensitivity to certain things, one being sound. My neurologist and I have been working on subduing the worst and working our way down.
  • Klonopin does not work for me. I take Nucynta at night and it helps, but the side effects are very unpleasant. It’s a very strong narcotic for pain. It takes away the “jerky” movement but it makes me incredibly anxious. I have not found anything else to remotely make the myoclonus better. I have high hopes for the future of medicine because I cannot fathom anyone living like this for the rest of their lives.

I didn’t know there was a specific diagnosis for this symptom!

  • I decided to share this as some of my friends might find it interesting. It is part of a long list of very odd symptoms I have acquired, and it was helpful to me when I found that this “weird sensory sensitivity” had a name, myoclonus. Psychologically, for some reason, the fact that there is a name for this condition is validating, and helps, somehow, to know that there are others dealing with this odd affliction that is not easily understood.
  • I’ve always thought my exaggerated startle reflex was related to MS, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in print.
  • I didn’t know what it was going on. It’s even worse in evening with the TV, my husband talking over the TV, the dog barking at the cat, etc. It’s sensory overload!! Now you’ve validated that it’s an MS symptom.
  • Good post Matt, I have same symptoms, but flashes of bright light, sound and other stimuli, including stress, are involved. I had not tried to find out what it was called, but I knew it was brain and spinal lesions behind it – I am glad to hear it has a name.
  • Oh my goodness, this was one of the new symptoms I developed about a year ago! My phone going off would startle me, the door slamming throws me into a panic attack, loud noises especially in the evenings seem so much louder and ear piercing.
  • I have this really bad and the doctor, not my neurologist, always told me it was my Graves’ disease.
  • I am so grateful to read this article. I developed this startle problem in the past 10 years since I was diagnosed with MS. I remember at times I was so startled it was actually painful. I don’t seem to do it as much as I once did, but good to know I wasn’t crazy. Thanks for your article.
  • I can not thank you enough for writing about this because, like many I never connected this with being a symptom of MS and I never told my neurologist that this was a frequent experience of mine.

People don’t understand the impact this has on my life

  • I was never so resentful. I have to keep reminding people who know I have MS to calm down so I can calm down too.
  • If someone raises his voice I begin trembling. I’m young, but old enough to not be comfortable about that observation. It’s getting worse too
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  • I knew startling was MS, but it’s nice to know that others are affected by people walking behind them. I had someone come around my desk to look at my computer and I got so nervous I had to ask him to move away from me. I felt like a great big “meanie”, but you have to do what you have to do.
  • This particular symptom has affected me tremendously in the social aspect. For many years I could not have been more frightened to be around anybody doing anything because they feared that I would have uncontrollable muscle spasm. The reactions I got were not totally bizarre, however I noticed that it was not just me who was disturbed by my symptoms, yet most people tend to feel very uncomfortable around me because most people think that they are causing me to be scared.

I have something similar

  • For anyone who is experiencing sensitivity to sound, there is another condition called “Hyperacusis” that involves sensitivity to sound without apparent evidence as to the cause. The primary difference between the two, from what I’ve learned, is that it does not (necessarily) involve the muscular activity, but more often results in pain, fatigue, and a multitude of other varied cognitive symptoms. There are a few subcategories of hyperacusis; we just recently discovered “Acoustic Shock Disorder” as the most likely diagnosis.

What about you? Do you find that you startle easily? Did you know that this could be a symptom associated with Multiple Sclerosis? Share with us in the comments!

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When people say, “but you look so good!”

One of the more frustrating things about having an invisible illness like multiple sclerosis is having people tell you, “but you look so good!” It’s incredibly difficult to explain to others what it is like to live with MS, and because so many of the symptoms associated with this condition are not apparent on the outside, it seems impossible for those who do not have MS to understand. We recently posted a story from one of our community members who expressed her frustration about people telling her she “looked good”, and our Facebook community responded in support! Here are some of the comments that our community members shared!

People just don’t understand

  • I understand, I have had MS for 11 years and I hear it all the time, “you look good!” Well I don’t feel good! People just don’t understand this disease!
  • Don’t waste any more time trying to explain what you’re going through. Most people just don’t get it. If you have a support system, terrific. It takes too much energy to try to educate everyone you know about MS. Don’t be afraid to say NO. I’ve lived with MS for 25 years. In that time, most people I know have “gotten it” through my behavior and actions. Check with your local MS chapter. They have literature to explain MS. Join a good support group. It helps.
  • While these words are true most folks mean well its more an issue of them not understanding MS. They understand what they can see, that’s all.
  • I get “how are you feeling? You look good!!” almost daily. Some days I wish I looked like I felt so then maybe people would realize “oh, she’s a mother of four and looks like she feels terrible despite her busy/demanding daily routine”. Pep talks are good, and positive reinforcement is also good. Telling me I look good is pointless.
  • I always tell the people that I look so good at the outside because there is nothing beautiful left at the inside. It is rotten, so I will do everything to keep my outside pretty.
  • I just wish they could be in my body for one day!
  • That statement makes me feel like I do not have the right to feel bad, or to “sit out”. It says the person talking has a total lack of understanding of this disease.
  • It drives me nuts when I hear that! It diminishes my feelings. No, I don’t want to roll around in “whoa is me,” but heck, this is real.

People think I’m lazy

  • My family thinks I’m lazy and expects me to push through it. I’ve been a plumber for 25 years and a timber faller logging for 7 years… I could get disability, but I want to work, I just can’t over do it.

People mean well

  • I think many people mean well by saying it. The truth is, I don’t venture out when I don’t feel well. I had a cop question me using my handicapped permit earlier in the week – checking my ID against it and he said “these aren’t for convenience”. I told him that he should be thankful I felt like crap or I would tell him what I was really thinking.

I don’t feel like I look good

  • MS made me gain weight, changed my shoulder and my legs, and my eyes cross. My body hasn’t felt fit in years, so please don’t say that I look good
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I don’t mind if people tell me I look good

  • I don’t have a problem with people saying I look good. All I can say is thank you.
  • I still like to hear, “you look good,” even if it’s not true.
  • I rarely talk to anyone about how I feel because they “know exactly how I feel because they do too”. Even though they don’t have MS.

What about you? How does it make you feel when someone says, “but you look so good”?

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The Heat and the Cold Can Impact MS Symptoms – Our Community Members Share Their Experiences

For many people with multiple sclerosis, heat can exacerbate MS symptoms. One of our contributors at MultipleSclerosis.net, Matt, even moved from southern California to Colorado, partly to escape the heat. However, another one of our contributors, Jackie, experiences MS symptoms, especially in her legs, when it is cold. It seems that temperatures affect people with MS in multiple ways, and in a recent article, Stephanie shared her experience. While she is extremely cold during the day, she finds herself turning into a “human torch” at night. As it turns out, many of our community members also overheat at night, or have other issues regulating their body temperature. More than 30 people in our Facebook community commented on Stephanie’s article, and here’s what they had to say:

I have night sweats too!

  • I had no idea that this was a symptom of my MS, which I was only diagnosed with 2 months ago. I also found out in an earlier post that “sensory overload” is part of it. Just ask my family, Saturday I was a complete jerk with EVERY little noise and I had no idea why. At least I can feel validated and not completely crazy!
  • I thought I was the only one who suffered from these strange symptoms! I prefer the heat over the cold, which makes my extremities hurt. And I freeze constantly – until I go to sleep. I bury myself under the covers to get warm, but wake up in the middle of the night kicking them off of me because I’m drenched in sweat. It’s miserable and ridiculously confusing!
  • I’ve been having night sweats for awhile and my neurologist keeps saying it is not my MS, but it didn’t start happening until a year after my diagnosis.
  • Fantastic post. This is something many people with MS experience as part of life with the condition and will help other people see they are not alone.
  • I, too, prefer the warm, not hot, weather. I freeze all day, but I can’t stand the covers on in bed.
  • I thought I was the only one who had the strange symptoms. I haven’t slept because of it for now 3 weeks, and it’s driving me insane.
  • I thought it was menopause possibly starting early. I never thought my MS did this. It’s horrible, especially when it’s actually cold.
  • I have the same problem with night sweats. I’ve had every test and no one can explain why I have them. Thanks for the article. I don’t feel so alone.
  • Yes, I definitely relate! I turn into a Bunsen burner especially late at night and no matter how cold it is I sweat like crazy without even getting all that over heated or hot. I still wake up sweaty.
  • ‪I sleep with ice packs all year long here in Michigan.
  • This is me, 110%! I’m freezing all day then a human furnace at night. And I can’t handle sleeping without a heavy blanket either from years of doing so before these symptoms.

I’m cold sometimes, and really hot at other times.

  • My husband and I had to resort to having our own bedrooms, and I often keep a fan on and have eight blankets. This is all because my body temperature is yo-yoing.
  • My feet always feel cold even though they’re warm especially when I’m in bed
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  • I get really cold then I get really hot. It’s off and on.
  • I have that problem too. I thought it was just me, so thank you for posting this. I get night sweats to the point that my shirt will be wet.
  • I know EXACTLY what you mean! I am freezing cold, and burning up at the exact same moment. But it’s not just at night. I am always uncomfortable.
  • I thought it was just me! My body is like a house with no insulation. I’m either too hot or too cold.
  • I’m always warm – my hot flashes ended some time ago. My feet are always cold, even when it’s 100° outside. My circulation is getting so bad.

My Body temperature is hot all the time!

  • I’ll trade with you! I am like a human torch all the time. I never cool off even in the winter. People think I’m crazy because I don’t wear a jacket even in the winter. It makes it very hard to sleep because my husband is always cold and I am always hot.
  • I live in IL and it’s Dec. 22. I still wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt to bed. I still sometimes wake up sweaty.
  • I don’t get cold often, but I’m always really hot since being diagnosed. It’s winter and I’m running my fan on full blast!

I’m cold all the time!

  • The only time this overheating ever happened to me was when I was taking Rebif. Now I am a thermostat nightmare – freezing cold all the time, layers and layers of clothing, and at night I have found the one thing to help go from hot to cold with minimal effort – believe it or not –  is a sleeping bag. The silk of the bag stays cool, and it warms up like a champ too so it’s easy to toss on and off at a whim without too much effort while TRYING to sleep.

Other:

  • I also find that using a sleeping bag helps me better adjust temp at night. I found this out by accident in September. Long story short, I was homeless from March of this year until December first. I was living in my car and when the season started shifting here in New England I finally borrowed a sleeping bag for the cooler nights. I slept much better with the sleeping bag than I did with blankets. My car would get stuffy at night with all the windows rolled up yet it was also chilly. The silkiness of the sleeping bag was comforting when I was feeling chilly and it was soothing to lie on top of it when I was feeling a little too warm. Now I have finally moved into an apartment and I don’t want to give the sleeping bag up.
  • I don’t do well in the heat. AC is for me in the summer, but I have been having cold hands and feet this winter nearly all the time. I am sitting in front of a floor heater nearly all the time now, and I live in California. There’s no way could I ever go or live where there is snow!
  • I don’t usually get hot or cold, but lately in the last 6 months I have sweating episodes that last about 20 minutes where I am drenched. I’m way past menopause so I know that can’t be it.

What about you? Do you have trouble regulating your body temperature? Do you have a hard time with either hot or cold temperatures? Please share with us in the comments!

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MS Clusters – How many of your friends and/or family also have MS?

There has been a great deal of research examining the role of genetics in the development of multiple sclerosis over the years. The current understanding is that MS is not directly inherited, however, genetics appear to play a role in increasing a person’s risk for developing MS.1 Experts currently believe that those who develop MS have inherited something in their immune system that makes them more reactive to whatever is causing the immune system to attack myelin. It is possible that something in our environment, potentially viral or bacterial, triggers the autoimmune response that leads to MS in a person who has an inherited susceptibility in their immune system. Because so many questions remain, we decided to ask our Facebook community if they are a part of an MS “cluster,” where multiple friends and/or family members have MS. Over 170 people responded, and here’s what many of them had to say!

Several people in my family have MS

  • My sister had MS. I have it now. She had PPMS and I have PPMS. There were 7 MS cases within 2 blocks of where I grew up. I have heard that genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.
  • My dad and his brother and sister all have MS; that’s 3 out of 5 siblings.
  • My sister and I were both diagnosed with MS this year, one month apart. Interestingly my sister is adopted, so we are not genetically related. We both want answers. It’s so tempting to blame something environmental. No one else in family has ever had it, and my twin brother is fine.
  • I have two kids and two cousins with MS!!
  • Two of my maternal grandmother’s cousins, my mother, her sister, my father and now myself. We all live in Victoria, Australia, which is quite cold and has higher rates of MS and Vitamin D deficiency than almost all the rest of the country. ‪None of the neurologists we see had ever come across such a “cluster” before
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  • ‪I’m the 6th cousin on my father’s side of the family to be diagnosed with MS.
  • My dad, his sister, my sister, my half sister and I all have MS. That’s 3 of 5 kids (2 boys, 3 girls) with the same father that have MS.
  • My aunt has it and my great grandmother died from it. I believe my lifestyle in my 20’s was the ultimate trigger. But eating a mostly vegetarian diet and drinking tons of green tea has helped me in more ways than I could have hoped for.
  • I’m the third generation in my family to have MS.
  • I have MS, was diagnosed in ’87, but in retrospect I’m pretty sure I’ve had it since my early 20’s. In 2005 my daughter was diagnosed at 25. My family was puzzled that it isn’t supposed to be hereditary! Then in 2007 my husband and her father were diagnosed. He and I both grew up in the same town; maybe its genetic and maybe environmental?
  • I have 2 cousins on my mom’s side that also have MS. I’m the 3rd to be diagnosed.
  • I am the 4th in 3 generations that we know of.
  • I’m 55 and I’ve had it since age 30. We think my grandmother on my dad’s side had it, but she passed away in 1983. Now one of my daughters has it and one of my nieces has it; that’s it for now.
  • My daughter was diagnosed at age 16 years old, and 5 years later I was diagnosed as well.
  • My mother’s cousin, first born, had it. Her brother’s first born had it, and I, her first born have it; my brother’s first born has it. All were/are males except for me. Is there a first-born child link?
  • My sister and I both have MS, and we are the third generation to have this in our family.
  • My friend has 69 first cousins, and 19 of them have MS.
  • I have MS, my mother has MS, and her mother had MS and died from complications when she was 46 years old.

There are a lot of people who live near me who have MS

    • There isn’t a “cluster” in my family, but there is in my neighborhood. The house on left, house on right, house across street, and me – each has someone with MS. That is my whole block.
    • My sister had MS, but no one else in the family going back 10 generations had it. HOWEVER, a woman on the next farm had MS and now a young woman on the closest farm to ours has been diagnosed with MS; that’s in a community of 40 people.
    • I’m the only one in my family. Three of us from a very small country town who went through primary school together have it.
    • My co-worker had MS, then I had it, then another co-worker got diagnosed…all while active duty Air Force serving in same building. It’s a very interesting connection.
    • There’s a cluster here in northern California.
    • I grew up in the town of Tonawanda in Western NY. It’s located in between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Many people I went to school with have MS.
    • I don’t have a family cluster, but 3 of us, all female, same age, lived on same block within 4 houses of each other, have MS. There could be more that we just were not in touch with after moving away. We were all diagnosed in 2005.

I’m the only one in my family who has MS

      • No one in my family on either side has MS.
      • I have it, but I’m the only one in my family. I was told that MS wasn’t hereditary.
      • I am the only one with MS. Diagnosed at 33 and I am 40 now. Praying no one else in my family ends up with it.
      • I am the first in my family. We went way back and couldn’t find anyone.
      • My dad was the first and only in our entire family.
      • I am the only one in our huge family.
      • I was told that MS is not hereditary?
      • I was told that MS runs in the family, but usually skips a generation; I am the first on both side of the family to ever be diagnosed with MS. I was diagnosed in 2007 when I lived in CO – which has the most people to be diagnosed with MS.

There are multiple autoimmune or neurologic diseases in my family

    • My mother has Crohn’s Disease. My youngest son has Type 1 Diabetes, my eldest has allergies, and I have MS.
    • I’m the only one with MS, but I also have neurofibromatosis (NF). I have over a dozen family members with some type of neurological problem. I have a nephew who has NF and Parkinson’s, and several family members who have epilepsy. I am 58 and was diagnosed with MS about 14 years ago. I’ve had NF all my life. I passed it on to my son and daughter.
    • I am the only one in my family to have MS, but my sister has Lupus.
    • My father’s three cousins (MS), his sister (ALS), he (peripheral neuropathy), my husband (MS), our daughter (MS – diagnosed at 10!)!!
    • As far as we know, my middle child, my daughter, is the only one to have it. My mother’s family all came from Sweden, which is a hotbed for MS. I don’t fully understand a lack of Vitamin D being a factor. We live in PA where we do get a lot of sunshine.
    • Four out of 6 of my siblings have MS, and my mother died from ALS.
    • My grandma had MS, my aunt has Lupus, and I have Neuromyelitis Optica.
    • I was diagnosed a year after a maternal cousin was diagnosed with MS. My cousin’s mom had severe RA, and my mom’s fraternal twin has Lupus.

Reference:

1. Aronson KJ. The epidemiology of multiple sclerosis–who gets MS and why? In: Kalb R, ed. Multiple Sclerosis: The Questions You Have – The Answers You Need. 5th ed. New York, NY: Demos Health; 2012:21-27.

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MS in America – The Use of Oral Therapies for the Treatment of MS

In our September article we shared some of the key findings from The MS in America Study (MSIA), highlighting some of the ways that multiple sclerosis (MS) impacts the everyday lives of those with this condition. In addition to collecting information about the impact of MS, we also asked people with MS to tell us about their treatment, including what they’ve tried, if they were satisfied, and what they are currently taking for their MS. Because oral therapies are relatively new to the treatment armamentarium, we decided to take a closer look at the use of oral therapies for MS in our community.

As one would expect, infusions, interferons, and other injectables are still used by a majority of MS patients. However, results from MSIA, which was completed by more than 5,000 eligible respondents, demonstrated that oral medications for MS are used by nearly one third of patients who have relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), and more than 50% of people using injectables are considering switching to an oral medication!

We asked all survey participants how long they have been on their current therapy, and as one would expect, those who were taking oral medication for RRMS reported being on that treatment for a shorter period of time than those who were on other treatments (like injectables or infusion).

Lenght-on-time-MS-patients-have-been-on-therapy05

Interestingly, the vast majority (80%) of people who had ever taken an oral therapy for MS reported that they were still taking an oral MS treatment.

We also asked participants several questions about switching therapies. Most of those who reported switching from injectables noted that they did so due to needle fatigue and/or issues of tolerability. Other reasons included seeking better efficacy, convenience, safety, and cost, among others.

Reasons-why-MS-people-switch-to-oral-medication08

Many MSIA participants who had not recently taken an MS treatment reported that they had started anew with an oral medication due to a variety of reasons, including dislike of needles, and disease progression, among others.

Finally, of the MSIA respondents who were still taking injectables to treat their RRMS, nearly half (48%) said they have considered switching to an oral therapy. While much remains unknown about the long-term use of oral therapies for MS, it is clear that oral medications for MS play a critical role in how this condition is treated. For more results from the MSIA special report on oral treatments for MS, click here.

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The Impact of MS on Everyday life

Earlier this year, MultipleSclerosis.net conducted an on-line study called the MS in America Study (MSIA), which aimed to gather information from people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The study was conducted with a goal of gaining a better understanding of the current status and trends in patients with MS. The survey covered a broad range of topics, including diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and living with MS. A total of 6,202 people started the survey, of which 5,710 were eligible (diagnosed with MS, at least 18 years of age and were either US residents or US citizens living abroad); 5,004 completed the study.

One key area of interest in the MS community is the actual impact that this disease has on the everyday lives of patients and family members of those with MS. A section of the MSIA study asked participants a series of questions that focused on everyday life with MS, and the results are quite compelling. Of 5,514 respondents, the vast majority (77%, n=4,244) said that they are no longer able to do as much as they used to before having MS. Nearly half noted that they are unable to work (43.1%, n=2,374), and a similar percentage of respondents (44.8%, n=2,472) were receiving disability benefits.

The majority of survey participants reported having children (72.5%, n=4,028 of 5,554), and not surprisingly, of those, most felt that MS had impacted their relationship with their children in some way. Check out the pie chart below to see how MS has impacted participants’ relationships with their children:

MSIA children impact

When asked about their relationship status, most reported either being married (61.7%, n=3,417 of 5,541) or in a committed relationship (11.8%, 653 of 5,541). Interestingly, nearly half (46.1%, 1,872 of 4,063) of those who were in a relationship reported being in that relationship for 21 years or more. Similar to the impact of MS on relationships with their children, most participants felt that MS had an impact on their relationship with their spouse or significant other. Nearly half (43.5%, 1,767) reported that MS had “a little bit” of an impact, while 38.7% (n=576) responded either “quite a bit” or “a great deal.” Only 17.7% (n=721) of respondents felt that MS didn’t have any impact on their relationship. Interestingly, an analysis of these data showed that the length of the relationship did not correlate with the level of impact that MS had on that relationship.

Because MS can impact a person’s life in many ways, it is critical that patients have a strong support system in place to help them cope with this condition. MSIA participants were asked some questions related to their support networks, and the majority (58.7%, n=2,941 of 5013) reported having a loved one who is actively involved in managing their MS. Support networks include spouses, children, parents, friends, significant others, and other relatives.

Of the 2,941 people who responded to the question, “How does your caregiver help you manage your MS?,” the majority (74%, n=2,180) said that their caregivers help out during an exacerbation, while most said their caregivers help out with transportation to and from appointments, and many also receive help from their caregivers with managing their medication.

MSIA support system

Fortunately, in addition to loved ones, there are many other resources available to provide support for people with MS. Over 87% (4,267 of 4,881) of those in the MSIA study said that they rely on MS-specific websites to learn about or manage their MS, more than half (68.8%, n=3,357) read MS magazines/publications as a resource, and many (45.2%, n=2,204) also use social media outlets, like Facebook, for support.

Results of the MSIA study confirm that the impact of MS on the everyday lives of patients and loved ones is significant, and that there is great value in the support systems that are available. To read more about this study and to see additional results, click here.

Tell us more about how MS has changed your life! Who and what do you rely on for support?

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Disclosing MS at Work – Community Experience

Since MSAA first partnered with the MultipleSclerosis.net staff, we have consistently been impressed with their willingness to share in our mission of improving lives today. We are pleased to have them as a regular contributor to our blog MS Conversations.

The majority of people who have MS are diagnosed when they are between 20 and 50 years of age. Because this coincides with the time when a person is most likely to be a part of the work force, people who have MS often have to consider their condition when making work-related decisions. Upon receiving an MS diagnosis, one of the biggest decisions they make may be whether or not to share this information with their employer and/or colleagues. While some people choose to be private when it comes to their MS, others may decide to be an “open book.” One of our patient advocates shared his experience about telling his employer and colleagues about his MS, and many of our community members shared their stories in response. We also asked our Facebook community members to share their experiences with us, and as you can see, people have very different stories to tell.

I’m hesitant to tell my employer and colleagues about my MS

  • Sometimes I will say I have a ‘neurological condition’ but I don’t go beyond that.
  • My experience is that most employers don’t want to hire a person with a condition that will increase insurance premiums. I would never tell an employer or future employer I have MS.
  • I think if I disclose my MS at work, I might lose my job. I can’t even work from home one day when I don’t feel well. I’m expected to be alert, healthy, and on top of my game. I feel like no one cares. As much as people can be compassionate, it is only to a degree. I need to be present, and I’m expected to perform. So, I play my role and I smile through pain and tears and I do my job. I don’t have much choice.

I had to make adjustments due to my MS

  • I had to disclose my MS because it could have become a safety issue at work, so my responsibilities needed to be adjusted accordingly.
  • I could no longer be productive and I became a danger to the public and myself. My employer knew before I did that I was having trouble. I drove an 18-wheel truck and set up POS networks. I just could not do the work anymore. Some of my employer’s family members had MS. The truth is I loved my work I had to come to grips with the fact that I just could not do it anymore. It’s important to be truthful to yourself about your capabilities at your job and then make a decision.
  • I had to go part-time instead of full-time three years after being diagnosed because of my symptoms and a number of relapses. However, I’m still trying to “stick it out” and remain employed because I find it quite fulfilling; if I don’t work, I get bored way too easily.

I wish I hadn’t said anything

  • Despite it being a private matter, even with HIPAA laws, word spread fast about my diagnosis at my work and people immediately started treating me differently.
  • When I told my employer, his response was dismissive, as if to say, “and what do you want me to do?”
  • My employer lacks compassion. Unfortunately, a few of my coworkers went out of their way to make it even more difficult for me.
  • I was essentially forced to leave, and I was then denied long-term disability benefits through my employer. Thankfully, I hired an attorney and eventually won.
  • I lost my job when my employer found out.
  • I lost my job of many years shortly after I was diagnosed in the 90s. Of course, they didn’t say my illness was the reason behind losing my job, but it was obvious to me. It was heartbreaking to lose a loved career after working so hard for so long.
  • I shared during my original interview to explain why I had balance issues. When a full-time position later became available, I applied and was told that they would not award me the position due to my MS. My boss said that if I became unable to work, they’d have no one to cover the additional hours. Although I sort of understood, it was blatant discrimination, and I reported it. My boss lied, saying she had never said that. I am still working there, as it is a job that I love with hours I am capable of handling.

Sharing my MS diagnosis was a positive experience

  • My boss is understanding, even though I can’t do everything I used to do.
  • My employer and coworkers have been very kind and understanding. It’s actually harder for me to tell people about my MS on dates than it was when I told my employer.
  • I’m glad I came “out.” My coworkers are very respectful, and I found out my boss’ wife also has MS.
  • Had I not told my employer what was going on, I would have missed out on being connected with the best MS specialist in my area. My boss happens to have connections who were able to get me in with my doctor, who was not accepting new patients at the time. Telling my employer was the best thing I ever did! Also, it is my personality to be very open, so it was never even a question in my mind. I do realize though, that in other positions, it might not have been the same situation, and I might have kept it under wraps if I knew it might mean keeping my job or not.

It’s important to note that there are employment discrimination laws in place in the US to protect you, particularly through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A legal resource such as the State Office of Protection and Advocacy, The Job Accommodation Network, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may also be able to assist in helping an individual to determine what rights they have regarding disclosure, workplace accommodations, and/ or determining whether discrimination may have occurred after a disclosure is made. It is unfortunate that some people have had negative experiences when sharing their MS story with employers and/or colleagues. One can hope that this will improve over time, especially with an increasing awareness of MS.

Have you told your employer that you have MS? What was your experience? What advice would you give someone with MS (or any other chronic condition) regarding disclosing this information?

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You Know You Have MS When…

word cloud

People with MS tend to be very familiar with the typical symptoms associated with having this condition, like pain, fatigue, difficulties with mobility, numbness, tingling, bowel and bladder problems, among others. However, there’s so much more to having MS than what anyone could find in a textbook or a pamphlet at the doctor’s office. We wanted to know more about the everyday life of those with MS, so we asked our Facebook community to respond to the statement, “You know you have MS when____.” More than 150 people replied! Below is a summary of the feedback we received.

You just feel exhausted

  • After sleeping a full 8 hours, you still feel like someone used your body to run a marathon
  • The simple task of washing your hair is exhausting
  • Your kids think that all you do is sleep and that you’re sick all the time
  • You are so tired that you cry, and no amount of sleep helps
  • Everyone says, “You look tired – what did you do last night?” and you respond, “Nothing”
  • You’re too tired to get up, but you just end up lying around in bed thinking about what you should be doing
  • You wake up with a little bit of energy, bounce upstairs and fix breakfast, only to end up exhausted and needing a rest
  • You are tired or fatigued all the time, and you can’t find the energy to take a shower
  • Your battery depletes after 45 minutes of walking, and you become a complete physical mess on your feet
  • Feeling well-rested is a thing of the past
  • You must have a plan B, C, D, etc.
  • You need a nap before you go to the store to get coffee, and then need a nap again before you put it away
  • It takes HOURS to pay bills and organize your family calendar when, in the past, you were a successful nurse manager and an expert at multitasking

The weatherman is not your friend

  • Summer used to be your favorite time of year, but now sunlight, heat, and humidity keep you inside like a vampire
  • You’re the only one in the room saying, ‘Is it hot in here?’
  • When 70 degrees feels like you’re standing inside of an oven
  • When you can’t do any outdoor activities due to the heat
  • When summer heat hits the triple digits, and you can barely breathe
  • Your body is better at predicting the weather than the actual weather man

Getting around and maintaining control of your body is challenging

  • You can’t play with your kids or take a walk with your husband
  • You fall over when standing still
  • Your upper body starts to walk, and your legs don’t get the memo in time
  • You don’t even realize it when your legs go out from under you
  • You wonder if you’ll be able to climb the four stairs it takes to get into your office at work
  • You just tip over when standing still on level ground
  • When you wake up one morning, and you’re paralyzed on one side of your whole body
  • You keep tripping up over nothing
  • You are always dropping things
  • You are in the market shopping for groceries, and a fireman stops you because your face is drooping and you are confused, and they think you have had a stroke
  • Your hands are asleep and they don’t wake up
  • You are eating dinner and your arm suddenly jerks and your food goes flying across the table
  • You walk like you’ve had a few cocktails, but you haven’t had a sip
  • You find that no one around you realizes how hard you have to work to keep up, and you just end up getting left behind
  • You have to stop mid sentence because you’ve lost your train of thought
  • You take the dog for a walk around the block,and your legs feel like they are encased in cement
  • You walk like you are dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
  • When your knees are locked as though there’s a magnet holding them together
  • When you go from 0 to pee in two seconds flat
  • You have to hold on to walls because you lack balance
  • You trip over something earlier in the day because of ‘drop foot’ and later that day you look at your scraped toes and wonder what happened
  • You decide being an unwitting participant in a wet t-shirt contest is better than running for cover during a surprise rain storm at an amusement park
  • You can’t stand without assistance
  • Your head goes one way and your legs another
  • You have to look at your hand and tell it to move
  • When you can’t pass a field sobriety test while sober
  • Despite only being 41, you walk like your 76 year-old mother
  • You have to lean your elbows against the shower wall to wash your hair

 Your mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be

  • You lose your train of thought while mid-sentence
  • You walk into a room and forgot why you went in there in the first place
  • You have the hardest time trying to say what you want to say, and your words come out making no sense
  • You describe your symptoms, and your neurologist looks at you as if you were speaking Greek
  • You get confused when there is too much going on around you; you can’t even place an order at a fast food restaurant
  • What was the question?

Pain and numbness become a part of everyday life

  • Your feet feel like they are on fire or you have frostbite
  • You are numb and tingly and have burning sensations all over
  • You get unexpected zaps of excruciating pain in your face, arm, leg, and you try not to scream
  • You are screaming from pain as what feels like loose electric wires whip out of control at the base of your spine
  • You feel like you are being stabbed, and you have a tingling feeling all over your body
  • You can’t feel your fingers, but you feel like you’re walking on rocks, barefoot
  • You feel continual electric shocks down one whole side of your body that are strong enough to make you gasp out loud
  • You “feel” noises that go straight to the bone with subsequent weird pain!
  • Your body feels like you got into a fight with Mike Tyson, then got run over by a semi, and then kicked to the side of the road
  • You feel like you are sitting in a wet bathing suit because your butt is numb

People assume that you are fine

  • When everyone assumes you are normal and they say, ‘Let’s go – get with it’
  • Your friends and family think you are fine because you look the same, so they think you are just being anti-social
  • You get angry hearing, “Gee, you can’t be feeling bad … you look too good”

Does any of this resonate with you? How would you complete the statement, “You know you have MS when ____”?

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Keeping Your Cool During the Warmer Months to Help Manage MS Heat-Related Symptoms

The summer months are upon us, which means warmer temperatures and the potential for a worsening in MS symptoms. Fatigue is one of the more common symptoms of MS, and it can impact a person’s mood, sleep, and overall quality of life.1 As many of us know, there is a well-established link between MS-related fatigue and heat sensitivity,2 so the warmer summer months can be especially challenging for a person with MS.

Last summer, one of the MultipleSclerosis.net contributors, Ashley Ringstaff, wrote about some of her trips and tricks for dealing with the summer heat. Since Ashley lives in central Texas, she is no stranger to brutally hot summers. She also has 2 very energetic children who love being outside, so staying in an air-conditioned house all day isn’t an option, even if she wanted it to be. Ashley’s recommends using cooling products (not just cooling vests), including those that are available through MSAA’s Cooling Program and Polar Products. She also uses an outdoor garden hose mister and outdoor fans when she is sitting on her porch, and she even likes the inexpensive handheld fans when she is following her boys around. She noted that staying hydrated, is of course, also extremely important.

Caregivers also understand the importance of helping a person with MS stay cool to minimize heat-related symptoms. Last summer, Patrick Leer shared his story about making lifestyle adjustments to help his wife during the warm summer months. He made sure to keep a cooler packed with water bottles and a neck cooler that he received at an MS walk. Patrick also mentioned unique considerations for planning a family vacation at the beach – he would book a room with a view of the beach so his wife could stay inside with air-conditioning and enjoy watching their daughter play outside in the sand. They even managed to find a beach hotel with an ice rink, which seemed to be made for families just like theirs!

Because heat can exacerbate MS-related fatigue, we recently asked our Facebook community if they experience more fatigue in warmer months, and how they manage MS-related fatigue. Here are some of the highlights from our community members’ responses:

Managing MS-Related Fatigue in the Warmer Months

Keeping cool using different devices

  • Soak small towels in water for your neck, face and top of your head and reload it at water fountains or hoses.
  • Use a cooling vest.
  • Carry ice packs in your pockets with a travel sized spray bottle full of cold water.
  • Carry a small damp towel in the spring and summer to help cool your head and face.
  • Use Frog Togg cooling cloths.
  • Wet bands that you put around your neck really help; also drink plenty of water, use air conditioners and fans.
  • Take cool showers.
  • Some individuals may benefit by wearing long sleeves and a hat when outside. Sweating is nature’s way of keeping you cool, so long sleeves can absorb perspiration and keep you cooler. Limiting time outside to 15- or 20-minute periods with rest in between can also help.

 Consuming cold food/beverages

  • Eating crushed ice throughout the day can help.
  • Keeping a cold drink with you helps tremendously so you can cool yourself from the inside out. Iced beverages and popsicles help.

 Other tools to combat heat-related fatigue

  • Exercise helps but it is sometimes difficult to shake the symptoms to get up the energy to go exercise.
  • Acupuncture and reflexology can help.
  • Try to get as much done in the morning to mid afternoon.
  • If prescribed by your doctor, taking a medication such as Provigil® (modafinil) that promotes wakefulness can help.

MultipleSclerosis.net moderator, Christie Germans, mentioned that she relies heavily on air conditioning as well, and she’s able to get a discount on her electricity bill due to her MS diagnosis. She recommends exploring your gas/electricity provider’s website for discounts available for medical needs. Multiple sclerosis will likely be listed in the “qualifying medical needs” list. Or, contact your neurologist’s office. You may be able to save as much as 30% on your bill! For her full response, click here.

Do you experience more symptoms in the warmer months? How do you manage MS-related fatigue?

References

1. Induruwa I, Constantinescu CS, Gran B. Fatigue in multiple sclerosis – a brief review. J Neurol Sci. 2012;323:9-15.

2. Marino FE. Heat reactions in multiple sclerosis: An overlooked paradigm in the study of comparative fatigue. Int. J Hyperthermia. 2009;25:34-40.

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