What’s the reference point?

So this past month we’ve been talking about various issues related to the topic of wellness in our MS Conversations, but what really is wellness? And how do you know if you’re truly living ‘well?’ What is the guiding point to reference when trying to determine this? All good questions, but not ones that necessarily produce easy, one word answers. Wellness can encapsulate many different factors, and its outcome can definitely be subjective at times according to each person’s view of it. It can be defined in very unique terms and the way each person lives their life can differ because of this. That’s not to say that one person’s take on wellness is better over another, it’s just different and relative to their own needs.

There are many components to the notion of wellness and that’s why its possibilities are abundant. Capturing not only the physical piece, but the emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual factors too, also contribute to the vast definition of what wellness means for each person. It’s not measured by just one part but by many, and who’s to say that if a person focuses on one piece of it at a time that they’re not still living ‘well’ in their own understanding of it. That’s why it’s so hard to quantify exactly what the picture perfect frame of wellness is; everyone is different and lives by distinct belief systems and practices. Because the concept of wellness can change so subjectively, it’s challenging to try and identify an exact point of reference for it. So instead, ask yourself questions that gauge your own well-being and include things that are most important to you—health, spirit, relationships, values, beliefs, the list can go on…



2017 Art Showcase Submissions

MSAA is now accepting submissions for the MS Ability Showcase and the Four Seasons Showcase!

A Panda Named Roni - Susan Russo

A Panda Named Roni by Susan Russo

MSAA welcomes paintings in oil, watercolor, and acrylic, as well as pastels and drawings in pencil and ink.  MSAA also accepts digital artwork.

Artwork will only be accepted from individuals who have MS. Submitted pieces must be two-dimensional. Sculpture, pottery, fabric, and other types of three-dimensional works cannot be accepted to either showcase. The MS Ability Showcase is open to all themes; however, submitted artwork to the Four Season Showcase must depict a specific season or holiday.

Snowy - Paula Breiner

Snowy by Paula Breiner

Submissions will be featured on MSAA’s website beginning March 2017 in recognition of MS Awareness Month.  Each month we will highlight one artist and his or her work.

Submissions will be accepted between now and December 16, 2016.

Submit your best work and view complete submission guidelines at support.mymsaa.org/showcase!


Read the Latest Issue of The Motivator

Service Animals and MS – read the newest Summer/Fall 2016 issue of The Motivator, available now in print and digital editions.

motivator-sf16-spreadRead about the following articles in this issue of The Motivator:

Cover Story:
The Joys and Challenges of a Service Dog Partnership
Dr. Darbi Haynes-Lawrence takes readers along her eventful journey to partner with a service dog, encountering many benefits and hurdles along the way.

Up Front:
MSAA’s President and CEO Gina Ross Murdoch talks about record-breaking outreach, a new online community, and upcoming events to support MSAA’s vital programs and services.

Research News:
Information is given on newly approved Zinbryta™ (daclizumab) and two investigational medications, Ocrevus™ (ocrelizumab) and siponimod.

Read the latest issue at support.mymsaa.org/motivator.


Insurance Open Enrollment is Coming!

That’s right, it’s almost here again-that time of year when individuals can enroll in a Marketplace health insurance plan. The open enrollment period to sign up for 2017 health insurance coverage begins November 1, 2016. Those who are uninsured can search for insurance plan options and assistance through the Marketplace to find a plan that works for them. Some may even qualify for lower costs on insurance premiums depending on your household information. Be sure to review the deadlines to sign up for insurance coverage to ensure that you are covered on a plan beginning January 1, 2017.

marketplace-enrollment-periodAs this is an important time for those who are uninsured, it is too for those who have previously purchased health insurance through the marketplace. For the latter, if you are not satisfied with your current plan purchased for 2016 and would like to make a change, now is the time to do so.  During open enrollment you can review other insurance plans to see if another plan better matches your needs.

For those currently enrolled in marketplace plans, you may receive a letter from your insurance company explaining if the company will either automatically re-enroll you for 2017 coverage, or if you will not be automatically re-enrolled. If your insurance company plans to automatically re-enroll you for coverage but you would like to make a change, it’s important to review other policies during the enrollment period and take action to change it by December 15th to ensure coverage beginning January 1st.

Whether you’re notified that you’ll be re-enrolled in your current plan or not, you do have to update your expected income and household information for the 2017 coverage year. This is to ensure that your premium tax credits are correct and that you will receive the appropriate coverage costs and plan options for the next year. A letter from the health insurance marketplace is also sent out to individuals currently enrolled that better explains the actions needed to receive the accurate premium tax credits for 2017.

In addition to updating your own income and household information, be sure to take the time to review the different insurance plan policies and prices for the new 2017 coverage year as these do change. You can also find helpful information with MSAA resources like My Health Insurance Guide and The Affordable Care Act and Multiple Sclerosis brochure that provides an overview of the insurance planning process and steps to help you PLAN ahead.







It’s Almost Medicare Open Enrollment Time!

A week from now Medicare’s open enrollment insurance period will begin, running from October 15th until December 7th. This is the time when you can review your current Medicare plan and make changes if needed. You do not need to sign up for Medicare each year, but you can review your coverage and make adjustments if necessary to ensure your health insurance needs are being met.

Open Enrollment Period 2016Medicare beneficiaries who have a Medicare Advantage plan or Part D plan should receive documents such as ‘Evidence of Coverage’ or ‘Annual Notice of Change’ letters from your health plan showing coverage outlines and any changes that will occur. It’s very important to review these materials to make sure of any changes in the plan’s costs, providers, benefits, drug formularies, etc. so that if something is changing with your plan, you are aware of it and can make changes to your coverage if needed. These plans can change their benefits so it’s crucial to review your policy and any upcoming changes.

What can you do during the open enrollment period? According to Medicare’s website you can:

The Medicare website offers a Medicare Plan Finder where you can search for and compare health plans, benefits, coverage and estimated costs. You can also contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for additional information and questions.

For additional help, you can receive individualized assistance and guidance in choosing coverage through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). This resource provides one-on-one insurance counseling and support, visit https://www.shiptacenter.org/ to find your local office.

MSAA’s My Health Insurance Guide is another helpful source for the MS community to find more information about insurance options and resources. This is an important time, so be sure to review your plan’s coverage and make changes if needed to make sure it’s right for you!







I’m Not Ready

This month we’re talking about wellness and this sort of fits in to wellness but it also just fits into life. I recently spoke with a young man and being the empath I sometimes am, what he said resonated with me on a person-to-person level. It’s not MS specific or specific for a gender, age, or race. This, I think, can be anyone and when I spoke with him it definitely was me. This young man not yet 25 years old had just found out he has MS and was not even out of the hospital parking lot contacted our helpline to…well honestly to vent. But not in an I just need to yell or scream or I need someone to blame way. His first words after Hello and the usual exchange of courteous pleasantries was “I’m not ready.”

Confused, I sat quietly trying to decide what, if anything, I should say in response and before I had crafted my next sentence he continued “I’m lost and I don’t know if you can help me but I am just not ready. I’m not prepared for this or know what to say or do. I am not open enough or smart enough for this. I’m not sick enough or old enough. I’m just not strong enough for this. I’m not ready.” We spoke for a while about the world he’d just entered, what he wanted to do next and what MSAA did. But mostly he spoke, listed and got lost in thought and I listened as he exhaled a breath he’d probably been holding for some time. Before finishing he asked me, “Do you have any idea what I mean?”

And I did; I do. I can’t relate to the diagnosis but I’ve been there, the I’m not ______ enough place. I’m not friendly enough, prepared enough, knowledgeable enough or good enough. I’m not helping enough, understanding enough, empathizing enough or listening enough. I’m not enough for them or won’t be enough to do this. I know I’m not alone in this (I don’t think I am at least), we all can get there from time to time. We aren’t ready, aren’t available, not right enough, rich enough or poor enough. We’re not well enough or sick enough or we feel we aren’t loved enough or able to love enough. We aren’t able to explain how we feel or why we feel the way we do. We’re not enough for them to stay or we aren’t ready to leave. I’m not sure, I’m not *you fill in the blank*.

It’s hard being able to admit the things we feel we aren’t. What we lack or perceive we lack. It makes us vulnerable and exposed, sometimes sad, but it’s also honest. Part of wellness, I believe, is acknowledging these “I’m not _____ enough” statements and facing the feelings they bring out in us. It’s taking the time to recognize the part they play in our lives and seek the assistance or understanding we need to address them. The “I’m not” statement doesn’t have to have the final say; it doesn’t have to be the whole story. I’m not sure if anyone will be able to relate…but just maybe they can.



MSAA Presents S.E.A.R.C.H.™ Live Webinar

msaa-search-graphicWhile having more than a dozen FDA-approved treatments for relapsing MS is very encouraging, learning about the therapies and knowing what questions to ask your doctor can be very challenging. Because of this, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) created its S.E.A.R.C.H.™ initiative several years ago and recently updated the program with a new booklet, workbook and now an upcoming live webinar!

Designed as a memory aid, the S.E.A.R.C.H.™ acronym represents six key areas that should be considered when “searching” for the most appropriate MS treatment. We invite you to register for our free, live webinar, How to S.E.A.R.C.H.™ for the Right MS Therapy for You!, on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm Eastern.

In this live, one-hour webinar, MS expert Dr. Carrie Hersh will:

  • Review the current landscape of MS therapies and those on the horizon
  • Discuss the importance of having a good doctor-patient relationship
  • Explain the S.E.A.R.C.H.™ acronym and how it helps people remember the six key topics to discuss with their physician when deciding on a treatment
  • Provide effective strategies for staying on treatment

Following the presentation, participants can engage in a Q & A session with Dr. Hersh from questions submitted through the S.E.A.R.C.H.™ webinar’s live chat feature. For more information about the S.E.A.R.C.H.™ initiative, please visit our website.

This webinar, along with other recently updated S.E.A.R.C.H.™ materials, has been made possible with support from EMD Serono and Sanofi Genzyme. MSAA is solely responsible for the development of S.E.A.R.C.H.™ and its content.


Fall Celebrations

fallWell, Fall is finally here even if in most parts of the country it doesn’t feel like it.  Most people associate Autumn with its two main holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving.  I know that if you were to play a word association game with me, I’d tell you that Fall makes me think of warm apple cider, jack o’lanterns, pumpkin pie, turkey and trick or treating.  All those things are connected to the holidays.

I thought to myself that there had to be more to the season.  Guess what?  There is so much more to celebrate.  I came across a website (http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/october/) that lists all of the “National Days” that you might hear mentioned on the morning news or radio.  Some are serious, but most are a bit silly.  I, for one, don’t think you can have too much silly in your life.  So, while there were so many for the season, I thought I’d share my favorites for October.

  1. October 4th – National Taco Day. Have Mexican food for lunch or dinner to celebrate!
  2. October 8th – National Fluffernutter Day. Make yourself a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich.  If that’s not your speed, celebrate National Pierogi Day instead!
  3. October 10th – National Kick Butt Day. This is the day to give yourself a kick in the pants and get yourself moving on something you’ve been meaning to do for a while.
  4. October 12th – National Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work Day. Get all of your co-workers involved and have a slumber party!
  5. October 14th – National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day. Make sure your kids know you expect them to celebrate this day!  And, have the pie or ice cream at the end because it’s also National Dessert Day!
  6. October 17th – National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day. This might be the easiest cleaning chore of them all! Click and clean!
  7. October 18th – National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Buy yourself a chocolate cupcake as a reward for all of the hard work you did yesterday!
  8. October 22nd – National Nut Day. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios…so many nuts and only 24 hours to celebrate!
  9. October 28th – National Breadstick Day. I wonder if Olive Garden knows about this day?  It might be fun (and tasty) finding out!
  10. October 30th – National Candy Corn Day. Finally, a reason to dig into the Halloween candy early!
  11. October 31st – National Knock Knock Jokes Day. Have some fun with the trick or treaters by telling funny and corny knock knock jokes all day.  You’ll have a captive audience because they’ll want the candy!

This website serves as a reminder that there is always something in life worth enjoying.  Plus, there is no law against you creating your own day of fun for your friends and family.  In the end, it’s just important that we, as the website’s motto says, “Celebrate Every Day”.



Dollars and Cents? No, Hours and Minutes

When someone mentions the word budget most people instantly think of dollars and cents. But budgeting our time and commitments is just as much work as budgeting our money, and even more difficult for some (myself included). Budgeting to fit in the pull of work, family, friends, school, volunteer activities, participation in groups… regular sleep hours… it takes a lot. I’m a juggler (not really), but I often fill my proverbial plates with more than I should and from time to time something takes a fall. All the good intentions aren’t enough to always keep things going. The start of fall, with all its changes and starting of new activities and programs has been a good time for me to look at all the things in my life that vie for my attention and decide how best to budget out my commitments. Take stock of the things most important to me and learn to say “No” to those that I just can’t fit into the 24 hours a day I’ve got.

catinthehat-214x300Taking the time to really asses our time and commitments can be more difficult than it sounds. If like me you like to stay busy, be involved and take on new things, you’re looking for ways to do it all. Be at the soccer games and make the deadline, help decorate the hall and run the meeting, work on projects and help a friend pick out their wedding favors. While keeping busy and involved can be exciting and interesting it can also take its toll. Realizing that while we’d love to juggle all the objects that life has to offer, it’s best to decide which of them is most important and put the others down takes thought. It takes being honest with ourselves that we have limits and that our time isn’t infinite. Choosing the activities or tasks that are the most important to us and saying no to others. Budgeting with money is important to make sure the bills get paid and there’s something left over to save. But budgeting our time is important to make sure we have something left over. To ensure we don’t burn the candle at both ends and end up missing things, moments or chances that we’ll regret. Yes, I want to be there for my friends and family, do well at work and help where I can but there are times when not maxing out my budget will save me from running in the red in more than just my bank account.


MSAA Joins Revlon 2016 Challenge

MSAA is excited to be a part of the Revlon LOVE IS ON 2016 Million Dollar Challenge!  From now until October 26th, MSAA and other organizations focused on women’s health are competing to raise the most money for a grand prize of a $1 million donation to their cause. In addition to the grand prize, throughout the fundraising competition, there will be mini bonus challenges with $1.4 million in additional prizes for the winners of these weekly or daily challenges.

revlon-love-is-onYou can get involved and help MSAA win the $1 million donation to fund our free programs and services including: cooling vests for heat sensitive individuals, MRI assistance, toll-free Helpline staffed by trained specialists, assistive devices, in-person educational events, award-winning videos and publications, and much more.

How You Can Help

Help MSAA improve more lives (and “Love”!) in the MS community today, by spreading the word about the Revlon LOVE IS ON 2016 Million Dollar Challenge!