Hi! It’s nice to meet you. What do you do?

Such a direct question, right out of the gate! And it’s one we encounter often when meeting new people – report your name and occupation for informational purposes, please. Because of the nature of this interaction (which feels very unnatural at times), meeting new people can be intimidating. It can be an awkward situation with pressure to ask or answer certain questions that may be sensitive to you or the other person. It can also be stressful to open yourself up to new people because the outcomes can be uncertain. How will the other person interpret what you said? Will they be accepting of you? And the detailed request to explain what you do rather than who you are can feel uncomfortable too, especially for those who may not currently be in the workforce to identify themselves as their work first.

Ok, so new conversations don’t exactly occur like this: “Hi, I’m John. I like traveling, going to the opera, and fishing.” But they don’t necessarily have to evolve into interactions that make you feel like you’re filling out paperwork at the DMV either. There can be a balance, where you can actually learn about the person’s character and their likes before judging them solely by what they do or don’t do for a living. It may not feel like it, but perhaps those who are no longer working are at an advantage at times in this new meeting scenario. This leaves the discussion open to actually discussing matters that are not just work related!

Other topics of conversation can be brought into the encounter and people can learn who the other person is and not just what they do. Maybe this conversation flow can include “tell me something about yourself,” thus creating a whole new direction of discussion between new people.

Even though meeting people can be scary sometimes, it can also open up so many exciting doors for increased interactions and forming relationships with others, which can be of great value!

How do you meet new people?

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Highlights from MSAA’s Improving Lives Benefit in Washington, DC

On April 22nd, MSAA held the second annual Improving Lives Benefit at The Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. It was a wonderful evening filled with good food and fun – all in support of a great cause! The funds raised from the event directly support MSAA’s free, vital programs and services.

Honorees - Doug - Sue

(Pictured from left: MSAA President & CEO Doug Franklin, Honoree Kristen Adams, MSAA Board Chair Sue Rehmus, and Honoree Dr. Randall Schapiro)

This year, two special people were honored as MSAA champions for their accomplishments, commitment, and support of the MS community.

Dr. Randall Schapiro, MS neurologist and member of MSAA’s Healthcare Advisory Council, was honored for his dedication and contributions to the MS community. Among his many notable accomplishments, Dr. Schapiro founded the first comprehensive MS center in 1977, participated in numerous research studies, and helped to develop two MS organizations. Through his years of service, he has come to recognize the importance and impact a “team approach” can have in helping the MS community.

“That’s the way we’re going to make progress. That’s the way we have success in dealing with a difficult disease. So I’m appreciative, very appreciative, of accepting this award on behalf of my team; all of the team; all of the people that have been involved with me and helped me.”

–Dr. Randall Schapiro

Also honored was Emmy award-winning network producer and writer, Kristen Adams. Diagnosed with MS in 2008, Kristen serves as an inspiration to all who hear her story. In early 2014, Kristen played a major role in helping to launch MSAA’s Why I Swim initiative by producing and starring in nationally broadcast videos to inspire others to share their stories.

“I can be a good example. And I know now why that is important and why I continue to do that. And I am deeply grateful to MSAA for allowing me the opportunity to do that. Thank you.”

–Kristen Adams

This year’s Improving Lives Benefit would not have been a success without the support and generosity of our donors. With the help of our supporters, MSAA was able to raise more than $115,000 – which will make a tremendous difference in helping to provide vital programs for so many people affected by MS.

Thank you!

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Latest Issue of The Motivator Now Available

The Winter/Spring 2015 issue of The Motivator is now available! Request your copy today or read it online with the all new digital edition! You can access the digital edition right from your desktop or mobile device and enjoy enhanced interactivity and special features such as tools to search for specific terms, change the font size, and add your own notes.

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Read about the following topics in MSAA’s latest issue of The Motivator:

Motivator Winter Spring 2015

Cover Story:

Cognitive Issues with MS: Research, Strategies, and Support

…A common symptom of MS, cognitive issues may impact many areas of one’s life, including employment, relationships, adherence to medications, and other activities of daily living. This article details current research into cognition and multiple sclerosis, while providing strategies and support for reducing the effects of this often-challenging symptom.

Read the full story

Stories to Inspire:

…Following a severe relapse, Tina was left with loss of vision in one eye, dizziness, and balance problems. She had no idea that seeing-eye dogs are also trained to help mobility and balance. With her service dog by her side, Tina is ready to conquer the world!

Read the full story

Program Notes:

…Updates on MSAA’s programs are featured, including the MRI Access Fund, details on how to request cooling accessories to relieve heat sensitivity, and more.

Read the full story

Read the latest issue of The Motivator – and be sure to check out the features in the NEW digital edition!

 

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Getting My Act Together: Staying Organized Despite MS

By: Jeri Burtchell

It’s easy to let fatigue be my catch-all excuse for why things are in disarray around here, but if you’ve known me for more than 16 years I’m not fooling you. Actually, I prefer my mother’s excuse for why I’m not very organized…

“You’re an artist, Jeri, and artists tend to be messy because their minds are busy creating.”

Sometimes, though, it seems my messy ways have only created more headaches and hurdles for myself — something I seem to have less patience for as time goes by.

I’ve decided to try a new tactic, though. It’s called “be kind to yourself.” So now, when I see self-made obstacles to stress-free living, I try to take off my blinders and correct one small thing at a time, making my living space – and my life – more “Jeri-centric”.

Case in point: Every time I need a pen I head for the three side-by-side pen cups on my desk. They are overflowing with pens I’ve collected on trips out of town and harvested from the copper-rich soil of pennies at the bottom of my purse, where together they perpetually weigh down my every move.

In what has become an exasperating ritual, I select a pen, begin to write, only to run out of ink three strokes into my thought. Frustrated, I put the pen back in the cup and select another. I’m often doomed to repeat this process four or five times before chancing upon a pen that can outlast my need for ink.

When my brother recently visited, he noticed this ritual, and asked me why I didn’t just toss the ones that don’t work. Such a simple, logical question and yet it had never occurred to me. Most likely because tossing the pen meant being near the trash can and required additional physical exertion. Yet in the grand scheme of things he was right.

Immediately I took all three cups to the kitchen counter where, one by one I assessed their capabilities by scribbling on a notepad. If it didn’t produce, it faced instant death by trash. In the end I had one pen cup full of pens that write, and had freed up two coffee cups.

I felt so good about that accomplishment, (and the way I am rewarded with ink every time I grab a pen to jot a note), that I’ve decided to see where I can make other small adjustments to be kind to myself. Here are a couple other ideas that I came up with. They might seem like “no-brainers” to a more organized person, but to me they were epiphanies that keep on giving, making me appreciate each day how thoughtful I was to make these small adjustments in my recent past.

● I went through all my spiral notebooks I keep around for work and ripped every page out that had anything written on it. Then I created project file folders, sorted all the notes for each project, and filed them. Now I no longer spend half an hour leafing through notebooks frantically trying to find minutes of a certain conversation.

● I went through a couple of piles of “chronologically filed” papers I’ve been meaning to go through and made three stacks: 1) Important/Save, 2) Needs Action and 3) No Longer Relevant/Trash. Things like the deed to the house and my passport went in the first stack, bills to pay went into stack two, and expired coupons, magazine subscription offers, or grocery lists from a month ago went into stack 3 (a.k.a. the trash can).

It’s amazing how easy it is to stay up on paying the bills now that I know where they are! And when it was time to take my son to get his Learner’s Permit at the DMV, I knew without a doubt where I could find all the necessary proof of ID for both of us.

My new hurdle is maintaining this level of order. But I’ve discovered that if I spend a little time at the end of the day making sure my work area is organized and the papers are filed it’s amazing how easy being kind to yourself can be.

Herding all the pens back into the cup corral at night and leaving myself a to-do list for the next day makes waking up the next morning a whole lot easier. It’s like I’m finally working with myself instead of plotting my own destruction.

So be kind to yourself and spend just a little time organizing a bill-paying station or home workspace with all of the things you might need. Cutting back on clutter-induced stress can have lasting benefits. Now if the bills would just pay themselves I’d be all set!

*Jeri Burtchell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. She has spoken from a patient perspective at conferences around the country, addressing social media and the role it plays in designing clinical trials. Jeri is a MS blogger, patient activist, and freelance writer for the MS News Beat of Healthline.com. She lives in northeast Florida with her youngest son and elderly mother. When not writing or speaking, she enjoys crafting and photography.

 

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The first “Ask Me Anything” on MultipleSclerosis.net!

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You may have heard of one of the latest trends in social media discussion forums, called “Ask Me Anything”, or “AMA”, popularized by websites like Reddit. An AMA is a common chat topic or general discussion forum thread in which people ask someone who is an expert in a certain area questions relating to his or her life or expertise. Last month, MultipleSclerosis.net hosted our first AMA event on our Facebook page, and it was amazing! The event was hosted by our team of moderators in honor of MS Awareness month, with the goal of providing a set time where members of our community could ask our team anything about MS symptoms (our chosen theme for this particular event). The results were tremendous! Our first AMA prompted over 240 posts in just one hour – including questions, comments, and replies – which averages out to about 4 posts per minute!

Though the main theme of the AMA was MS Symptoms, a wide variety of topics were discussed, including rights at work, discontent treating physicians, how to provide support to relatives and loved ones who have MS, how to manage fatigue, what it means to have secondary progressive MS, and what to do upon first receiving an MS diagnosis.

Our moderators and team answered the community’s questions based on personal experience as well as the wealth of articles on MultipleSclerosis.net. Here is a brief summary of some of the topics that were discussed!

I’m unhappy with the treatment I’m receiving from my current neurologist. One place to start is by taking a look at a registry of MS experts here. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society may also be able to provide recommendations for practitioners in your area. Additionally, attending patient meetings can be very helpful for coping with many aspects of having MS, and they also serve as a great source of information like names of good doctors.

What can I do to manage my MS fatigue? Believe it or not, exercise actually helps some people with MS manage their fatigue. – It stimulates certain chemicals in the brain to make us feel better. Working full time while taking care of one’s family is exhausting for MSers. Another idea would be to try meditation or yoga for its calming and healing effects.

What are my rights at work with regard to disclosing my condition, and receiving the support that I need? The ADA requires an employer to provide assistive equipment/aids so someone who is disabled can continue doing his or her work. It also prohibits the employer from firing someone for being disabled, but does not protect you from termination if the employer cites other reasons. It is also important to contact someone in your Human Resources (HR) department if your company has one. Those who work in HR are experts in this subject. Our expert, Cathy, also wrote a great article about helping those who are disabled look for work.

How can I be helpful to a loved one who has MS who lives far from me? One of the best ways to provide support is to be there for loved ones when they need to talk, and show an interest in how this is affecting her or her life. Ask her how she’s doing, and listen to her response.

What is secondary progressive MS? Secondary progressive MS is a type of MS. While relapsing-remitting MS is the most common type of the condition, secondary progressive MS impacts many in the MS community. Here is some more information on SPMS.

What does it mean to be in remission? Being in “remission” doesn’t necessarily mean that your symptoms completely disappear (some people will return to feeling exactly as they did before the exacerbation began). Stephanie wrote a very comprehensive article on relapses and remission in her MS 101 on understanding relapses.

Where should a person who was just diagnosed with MS start? You should start with a request to see a neurologist– preferably one who specializes in MS – and have a complete workup of your history and an MRI. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to find answers.

We truly appreciate all of our community members who participated in our first AMA, and of course our amazing team of moderators who were feverishly responding to all of the questions during a very exciting hour! We will definitely be hosting more AMAs in the future, so we will keep the community updated when we have the next one scheduled!

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MSAA’s MS Research Update Now Available

Research_Update_2015_email_BUTTON1The 2015 edition of MSAA’s MS Research Update provides a comprehensive overview of research findings on FDA-approved disease-modifying therapies, as well as study results on many experimental treatments currently under investigation. This update also presents directions for future research in areas such as stem-cell research, biomarkers, genetic studies, and more.

In addition to the exciting research aimed at relapsing forms of MS, several studies are also looking into the treatment of progressive forms of MS. To assist individuals interested in learning more, trials with progressive forms of MS have been highlighted in bold for quick identification.

Read MSAA’s latest MS Research Update here.

 

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Worth Fighting For

By: Matt Cavallo

There was a touching moment at my last neurology appointment. You see, I have been with my same neurologist since moving to Arizona in 2009. Throughout the years, he has been by my side through good and bad times. This time was different. He seemed less like my neurologist and more like he was proud of me.

In 2010, I was suffering from severe spinal stenosis due to a bone fragment that had chipped from my C6 vertebra. I required emergency neck surgery or faced the risk of being quadriplegic. After surgery, I fell into a state of depression. Relapse after MS relapse building to a surgical climax, I just felt like my quality of life was never going to be what it was before having MS.

I was ready to give up on myself. Not only that, but I was ready to give up on my MS treatment, as well. And I did. I was required to stop my treatment prior to surgery. Post-surgery, I didn’t want to restart my treatment. I had had enough. I was sick of feeling like a science experiment or a pin cushion. It seemed like even though I was on a treatment that another debilitating relapse could strike at any moment.

One month passed post-surgery and I was feeling OK. A little tired, but OK. Then a second month passed with no treatment. Now, unbeknownst to me, I started to forget simple tasks around the home and office. A third month passed and I was dragging my left leg, had blurry vision in my right eye and couldn’t follow simple instructions. However, due to the brain fog I was in, I convinced myself that nothing was wrong.

That’s when my neurologist stepped in. I didn’t tell him anything, but you see I worked for a neuroscience clinic that was associated with his practice. One of the nurses called him and he made a special trip down to the neuroscience clinic to check on me at work one day. As a result of his visit, I found myself in an MRI followed by the news that my brain and spine were blossoming with active lesions. He ordered me a round of solu-medrol and a follow up with him the next week.

During that follow up, he wanted to know why I was acting the way I was. Why was I going against medical advice? I told him I was done fighting and that I had already been through too much. He spent the rest of the appointment helping me decide that I was worth fighting for. That my multiple sclerosis would have periods of relapse followed by periods of remission and that I needed to use the available tools to fight it with all I could. And I did.

Good Times: Last week, I walked into his office feeling like Norm on Cheers. I got to visit with old coworkers and acquaintances and catch up with old friends. Then, it was time for the appointment and this appointment felt a little different. He did his protocol tests and talked to me about lab results from a recent blood draw. Then he took the conversation in a different direction.

“Matt,” he said, “How are your travels? I worry some time that your life on the road is going to wear you down.”

“You know me,” I responded. “I want to use my story to go make a difference in the world.”

“When I think back to when I first saw you, to where you have come, despite the challenges.” He paused. “I’m just…I’m proud of you.”

Given where we have been and reflecting back on the past five years together, the good and the bad, I was speechless. This is a revered neurologist, that has been practicing MS in Phoenix since 1978 and he is proud of me.

At first, I was speechless then I responded, “Remember when you told me I was worth fighting for? Well, I believed you.”

I believe that all of you who are reading this are also worth fighting for. The question is, do you believe it too?

*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/

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Spring Fling

Ahh, the time of year that brings colorful flowers into bloom and comfortable temps is finally here! April showers that bring May flowers help mark the arrival of spring type weather and a time for people to get outside and enjoy this time of year. It’s not too warm yet in most of the country, which allows for outdoor events to be enjoyed, not denied because of the heat. So what are some things people can get out and enjoy doing during this spring time?

Doing outdoor chores like gardening or yard work can be relaxing at times while you go at your own pace, or just sitting outside during this season can be refreshing, breathing in air that the winter months made most people hibernate against. Attending ball games, community events and outings, exercising or taking a ride can all be welcomed activities to appreciate this month. Spring doesn’t seem to last too long in relation to the sizzling summer and frigid winter months, so consider this period a ‘fling’ to do what you like, no matter what the activity is.

You can get together with people you enjoy spending time with and make up your own activities or events this season. Try something new – like a project or artwork you’ve always wanted to create, and have others help you to make it a fun group activity. It’s important to let yourself be present in the moment, especially if you’re engaging in something new, so that you can appreciate the situation for what it’s offering. The seasons come and go, so be sure to make your ‘spring fling’ a memorable one!

What’s your idea of a fun ‘spring fling?’

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Tips for Staying Organized

Organization is a personal character trait; to some it comes naturally, to others it is a struggle. One thing is certain; organization is about finding a system that works for you. There is no need to justify something that works to your benefit, regardless of other opinions of that system.

Consistency is one of the more important factors when discussing organization and managing one’s life. They say it takes 21-days or three weeks to make a habit. This may be true for some, but it is stressful to think about counting down 21 days just to find some level of consistency in a routine.

For those who struggle with being organized, or feel that they need more organization to help with day to day activities, the following suggestions or tips may be helpful:

Sort at the Source:
Stay on top of mail and paperwork as it comes through the door. Sort through the junk mail and place it in the trash or recycle bin. Place bills or other important documents in a space that is meaningful for you, and where you will know where to find them when needed.

Put it Away:
It sounds like something you would tell a child, but this simple step can help those who seem to misplace items. You are more than likely to remember where something should be, but is it in its place when you go to look for it? When you are done with an item, put it back in its place. When items get left out of place, they can easily be lost.

Allow Plenty of Time:
When we are rushed, mistakes can happen or things can get lost. Allow yourself plenty of time to complete a task and complete one task at a time. Time management and organization often go hand in hand.

What tips or suggestions do you have regarding organization? Have you found a process that works for you?

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Greetings from the Midwest Region!

By: Marie LeGrand

Greetings from the Midwest Region! I am the newest member of the team and as the Regional Director have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people and formed great relationships during the last few months.

As a healthcare leader, my journey has taken me to unexpected places and provided me the opportunity to enhance client and patient satisfaction; by creating and implementing services that promote healthy behaviors, and designing plans around health program expansion and extension. Before joining MSAA, I developed disease prevention programs and monitored the effects within community settings. I worked collaboratively with other nonprofit organizations; in increasing HIV awareness and prevention within underserved communities and high-risk groups in the city of Chicago. Through program development, health promotion, partnership building, and research & development, I created culturally sensitive and educational materials on key health issues.

As the Midwest Regional Director, I will work with MSAA in creating awareness and providing education, programs and services to individuals living with MS and their families. I have had the privilege of speaking and listening to the touching stories of individuals, who have started support groups and fundraising events that encourage others to stay positive and involved while finding ways in which to overcome the challenges of MS. Through them, I am empowered and excited every time I am asked about my profession and the work that MSAA does nationwide for the MS community. I am also pleased when my guests come up to me at the end of a program and proclaim how happy they are with the quality of work that we consistently do for them and their families. For many, it is an opportunity to meet new friends and create connections that will last a lifetime. For others, it is a time to laugh and share stories of encouragement and perseverance as well as giving tips on how to live life fabulously with MS!

In the next few months, I plan to reach out to those living in rural communities and small towns working with expert clinicians and health practitioners in the field to answer questions that many have pertaining to their health. Oftentimes, it is a very scary experience to speak with clinical staff or a physician. The programs are an open forum for many to address issues that are left unanswered in a friendly and inviting environment allowing them to discuss pertinent topics that affect daily living. I have a few educational programs that I am excited about, which covers a variety of topics such as, “The African American MS Patient Experience”, “Multiple Sclerosis in Women”, and “Adherence Matters”. I hope through these programs, many will become more knowledgeable about their MS.

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