The Motivator: Winter/Spring 2017

Introducing MSAA’s newest edition of The Motivator, available now in both printed and digital versions!

Read about the following topics in the new Winter/Spring 2017 issue of The Motivator:

  • Cover Story:
    Disease Effects and Needs of Minority Populations with MS
    New findings on diagnosis, symptoms, disease course, treatment response, and access to care are among the many issues presented in this article.
  • Up Front:
    MSAA’s President and CEO Gina Ross Murdoch talks about new Board members, successful fundraisers, and exciting initiatives.
  • Research News:
    Details are given on Ocrevus™ (ocrelizumab), the first disease-modifying therapy to be approved for both relapsing forms of MS as well as primary-progressive MS.
  • Program Notes:
    MSAA’s MRI Access Fund is now fully restored and in full swing, providing much-needed MRI scans to individuals who otherwise could not afford this vital testing.
  • Stories to Inspire:
    Read about an individual’s recovery from severe depression and her newfound happiness.

Don’t Forget!
The new Winter/Spring 2017 issue of The Motivator is also available as a digital edition, providing: easy, interactive, online viewing; access from your desktop, tablet, or mobile device; and special features that include a search field, font-size preferences, and more!

*The Motivator is MSAA’s award-winning magazine provided to the MS community and to our generous supporters.

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Let’s Hear It for the Volunteers!

This week is officially marked as National Volunteer Week. Volunteers are so necessary for many organizations including ours. For this post we wanted to introduce you to some of our amazing volunteers here at MSAA.

Charles Backlin known around our office as Chuck has been volunteering with MSAA for 11 years in our home office.  After retiring from the US Military Chuck was in search of something close to home that he could get involved with when he came across MSAA.  Chuck has been volunteering since he was young, taking part in Boy Scouts and the Ground Observer Core in Junior High “We needed eyes on the ground in area’s where we were watching for potential threats from Russia. We would go out and observe the area and report places that were suspect to be evaluated by a fighter system.” From this early exposure to being part of a volunteer group Chuck was able to experience not only being a part of a group and working toward a common goal but also serving others. When asked what he would say to potential volunteers he stated “They need to get out and do for other people. It’s important.”

Barbara Gershenoff volunteers with our lending library helping clients get resources and connected to writings focused on living with MS, spurred on by having a friend who was diagnosed with MS years prior.  She also takes part in special events such as our annual Golf Tournament . For the past one and a half years Barb has come in to work with the team at MSAA to continue to connect with clients across the US and help raise funds so that we can continue to provide our programs and services to clients. Barb is a retired school teacher from New York who when she and her family moved to NJ was looking for a worthwhile organization to get connected with, googled local volunteer opportunities and came across MSAA. When I asked Barb what she likes most about volunteering she said without hesitation “I love the people here [at MSAA]. I’ve gotten to know them and this place [MSAA] feels like home. And there is of course the fact that I get to help people who really need help.”

Nada Baydoun has volunteered with our MSAA Social Media Street Squad since the summer of 2015. “I signed up to volunteer with MSAA because when I researched, I loved what I saw on the website. I was also encouraged to volunteer with MSAA due to the excellent reviews and comments on Facebook from people suffering from MS.” As part of our Street Squad team, Nada and hundreds of other volunteers help MSAA spread the word about new developments and available resources to the MS Community thru platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. “I like that I feel that I am spreading awareness about MS. Many of my Facebook friends have messaged me privately asking me about my MSAA posts and wanting to learn more about MS. I also like that the posts [from mymsaa.org] offer practical and helpful information to those suffering from MS.”

Each of our volunteers and all of the amazing volunteers who have partnered with us at MSAA over the years are a vital part of what we are able to do for the entire MS Community. They help us to spread the word and make our programs possible; they are our ambassadors to communities and some of our greatest supporters. Thank You So Much to everyone who currently does or has ever volunteered with MSAA. You are not only part of our MSAA family but we also couldn’t do what we do without you.  A big Thank You also to Chuck, Barb and Nada who let me get to know them a little better while writing this post, you all are the best!

If you have any interest in volunteering with MSAA, check out our Volunteer page on our website or contact us at volunteer@mymsaa.org.

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Why Self-Care?

Self Care by it’s very definition is “Care of the self without medical or other professional consultation” (or at least that is what Dictionary.com says). The very act of one caring for oneself would seem would be natural and come without thought. Then why is it so incredibly hard for individuals to practice self-care? We spend hours, weeks and years of our lives making time to care for others, putting others needs first and making to sure to be there for those around us who call. And while I’m sure this is incredibly helpful to the friends, neighbors, coworkers and loved ones who we give our time to, we often suffer in the name of others.

Please don’t get me wrong, helping family, volunteering for organizations, being there for friends and coworkers is valuable and vital to building good community and connection, but taking the time for self is vital to you. Often, and I’m probably not alone in this, I feel selfish and self-centered when I turn down working at a community event, changing plans to help a friend move or asking someone else to take something off my plate. But it’s important to remember that “an empty cup has nothing to pour out.”  So if you are depleted, running on empty, feeling emotionally or physically fatigued, not only will you personally feel the weight of it but possibly the interactions you have with others will also be impacted.

What is self-care? That looks different for every person. I enjoy a cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning on my back steps, going to the movies first thing Saturday morning when I’m the only person there and taking my favorite playlist with my DSLR camera and getting lost exploring my city on a beautiful day. Yours may be similar but it may also be completely different.

I’m a fan of podcasts and educational talks. If you have not heard of them, give TedTalks a try. They have a section on the importance of Self-care. And if you don’t want to take my word for why placing an emphasis on self-care is so important, give them a listen as they give ideas, tips and why behind the what of self-care. Listening to their talks may just be an act of self-care in itself 🙂

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Springtime Strawberry Salsa

The springtime is here and I begin to crave juicy and delicious fruits.   Fresh strawberry salsa is the perfect springtime treat.  This quick and fresh recipe can be served as an appetizer, snack, or dessert. You can also add peaches or mango too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, diced
  • ¾ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons of lime juice
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and carefully mix together
  2. Refrigerator until ready to serve
  3. Serve with cinnamon pita chips or tortilla chips

Are you ready for some juicy seasonal fruit this spring season, too?

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MSAA Closed – Friday 4/14

Please note that MSAA will be closed on Friday, April 14, 2017.

We will be back in the office on Monday, April 17, 2017 at 8:30 am.

Enjoy the spring weather!

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Meet the Clients – Changing Lives Monday to Sunday

To kick off MS Awareness Month, MSAA released the new video Changing Lives Monday to Sunday to show the impact the organization has on the MS community, and to showcase our commitment to our mission of Improving Lives Today.

Now, meet Cathy, Sara, and Simone – the three MSAA clients featured in the videos:

  • Hear from Cathy whose MS was causing heat sensitivity that drained her energy and kept her indoors in the air conditioning. Cathy decided to reach out to MSAA about our Cooling Program and received a cooling vest that allows her to get outside and feel re-energized.
  • Sara talks about how her diagnosis and subsequent disease progression left her feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. In order to get the MRI to prove that her disease was progressing and her symptoms were a result of her MS, Sara applied for MSAA’s MRI Access Fund which helped to pay for her necessary test.
  • After her diagnosis in 2015, Simone wanted to find a way to take care of her whole self, but she also wanted to help others with the same diagnosis. In her search for volunteer opportunities, Simone came across Swim for MS and dove right in, not only raising money for the MS community, but also finding support for herself and the freedom swimming gives her.

To learn more about any of these programs, please visit mymsaa.org

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MSAA’s Fourth Annual Improving Lives Benefit

As MS Awareness Month came to a close at the end of last week, MSAA held its fourth annual Improving Lives Benefit on March 30th in Philadelphia, PA.  This event allowed all of us at MSAA to celebrate MSAA champions who embody our mission of Improving Lives Today in the multiple sclerosis community throughout the United States.

This year, we were extremely proud to honor Shana Stern (an MSAA Art Showcase Artist), her son, Walker Reynolds (a Swim for MS volunteer), and William Saunders (MSAA Board of Directors’ Treasurer).

Attendees got to hear from Walker about his desire to raise money for a cause that would directly benefit and support people like his mother Shana, who was diagnosed with MS in 1999.  We also had an opportunity to hear from Shana about her process of expressing her creativity and love of music and performance through her newfound passion of painting with her knuckles.  Finally, William Saunders spoke about his time serving as a member of the MSAA Board of Directors and as a representative of the MS community as a true gift.

In addition to celebrating the work of our MSAA champions, we were also able to raise more than $120,000, which will make a tremendous difference in the lives of numerous individuals and families with MS.

This year’s event would not have been successful without the support of our attendees, supporters, and our sponsors.  Thank you to everyone who contributed and we look forward to another beautiful evening next year!

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Purging: Useful in More Ways than One

Ahhh Spring…a time when flowers are in bloom, daylight lasts a bit longer, and everyone tries to come out of hibernation from the cold winter months. Spring cleaning is known to be synonymous with this time as well; to rid households or offices of stale, closed up winter residue and open up to the fresher and rejuvenating seasons ahead. But this period of spring cleaning does not have to begin and end with just cleaning out closets or drawers, but rather a purging of all things unwanted, unnecessary or negative that’s affecting your life.

Now I know this can be easier said than done—things happen that you can’t control or predict sometimes or can even change, but for the situations where you do have control or a say in it, rid yourself of negativity and toxicity. If you have the opportunity to shed things that don’t add or contribute positively to your life, do it. Life is unpredictable as it is and there’s so much that we don’t have control over, so if there are moments where you can actively take charge and remove the unwanted, jump on it.

The act of purging can be cathartic; it can help you discard pessimistic thoughts and even people, which can be so very draining to deal with, especially on a regular basis. This practice may be a lengthy and emotional one because it can take time to evaluate these aspects of your life and day-to-day. To realize what should stay and what should go is an inner learning process and one that only you yourself should decide. It’s not easy breaking ties or cutting things out, but in the end you have to consider what’s ultimately going to be best for you, and finding comfort with the decisions you’ve made and to be able to move forward. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be defined by just clearing out closets; it can be a clearing of the mind as well.

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Being ‘Emotionally’ Well

So, in talking about different aspects of wellness this month I wanted to shine light on one wellness factor that I think is very important, and probably one of the most difficult to measure—emotional wellness. Because the concept of wellness carries with it so many different implications, the emotional piece of it comes loaded with many questions and wonderings in itself. What does it look or feel like to be ‘emotionally’ well?

In a world that’s wracked with chaos and havoc a lot of the time, how many people can say that on a day to day basis that they are emotionally feeling well? Sometimes it’s impossible to keep up this façade, and rightfully so; no matter how much you try to control in your world, life decides to get in the way at times and carry out its own agenda. Obstacles, illness, accidents, frustration, and stress are all elements that can impact one’s emotions and try to change how you react and cope with things. But this is where you get to step in and shake things up; though life does sometimes enjoy giving us a plethora of lemons, we have the choice to make lemonade. It won’t always be easy, and I guarantee there are times that it’ll be even more difficult, but if you consciously choose to stay still with yourself and use the resources you have at hand, you can make the most delicious of lemonade concoctions ever tasted as a result.

One of the main components to emotional wellness is a positive attitude, and I think this is a piece that can be especially hard to maintain at times. But again, while we may not have control over the things that happen to us, we can control how we react to them, and trying to stay positive and optimistic in this may be one of the strongest weapons we have. Being able to seek support from others is another measure of this wellness puzzle piece. Now this can be challenging for many, as asking for help can be misconstrued and thought of negatively at times, but rather than see it in this light, think of it as a strength – reaching out to others in times of need shows that you are aware of and considerate of your needs and what you need to move forward. And if that means it’s a helping hand reaching out to you, then grab hold of it. You know yourself best, so if you find that you don’t have all the pieces to help you feel emotionally well, pin down what you think is missing and allow yourself to look for it.

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Where Has the Time Gone?

It’s (finally) officially spring in the Northern Hemisphere. While temperatures in the spring-like arena appeared earlier than expected in many areas, today marks the official start of the Spring Equinox, and with it the end of another winter.

Spring, like many of the other seasons, helps us to mark the passage of time. One month ends as another begins while we watch as one season gives way to the next. The passage of time can be something that renews us, but for some it can also be decidedly daunting. Preparing for a change or coming to the end of a journey. When we think of our wellness we tend to parse it out into differing categories and label each with action steps to move it along. Time is one of the few things that inches its way into all aspects of our wellness. The time we take to devote to our physical wellness. Setting aside time to recharge and center for mental wellness. Or the time we give ourselves to work thru emotional times to attend to our emotional wellness. Time and for many of us the lack of it in reserve is another aspect we have to consider when we talk about our wellness. Being deliberate about taking time to ourselves when we need it most and even when we don’t think we do. Taking an intentional (as much as is possible) look at the time we spend and what that says about the things that matter to us. It’s been said that “time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters”. Where and what and who we spend our time on has the ability to shape the way we view not only ourselves, but also our wellness.

As spring arrives and we are in the mode of thinking of change, take stock of your personal wellness on all levels. See what aspects of your wellness that you may be spending not enough time, too much time or no time at all on and consider making an adjustment to see how thinking about the devotion of your time will impact your overall wellness.

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