My MS Manager – A Free Mobile App for the MS Community

My MS Manager is the first-of-its-kind mobile phone app designed specifically to help individuals with MS and their care partners better manage the ever-changing course of the disease.

In December 2014, MSAA re-launched the updated app with new features that will enhance usability.The updated My MS Manager app includes options to:

  • Track symptoms and disease activity
  • Input and store important medical information
  • Generate useful charts and reports for easy tracking of treatments, moods, symptoms, and more
  • And – exclusive to My MS Manager – connect directly with your physician via the app to share your progress and reports securely and as needed.

This convenient tool is available as a free download for both Apple and Android mobile devices.

Apple App

Google

 

If you need assistance with the app, please call (800) 772-8277, ext. 178 or email us at apphelp@mymsaa.org.

 

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Summer Planning and Travel Resources: An MSAA Blog Re-cap

As planning begins for summer vacations or trips, many are left searching or wondering what resources may be available to help with planning. MSAA guest bloggers Matt Cavallo and Jeri Burtchell have written over the years to provide some helpful tips for the travelling MS community.

In Air Travel Tips for the MS Community; Matt, a seasoned traveler, provides his Five Steps to Stress-Free Air Travel for People Living with MS. Matt writes, “Travel is stressful for everyone. Airports are big, busy and fast-paced. Security lines can be long and the thought of standing, unpacking, and repacking at TSA is enough to unravel even the most seasoned traveler”.

Often times the smaller details are those which are overlooked when planning a trip. Those small details such as the size of your carry-on, or the snacks packed in your bag can often make or break a trip. In Jeri’s Summer Travel Tips for Flying with MS Part 1 and Part 2, she identifies some of those smaller details that should be thought of ahead of time in order for smooth sailing….or flying in that matter.

We often learn through the experiences of others. Please share your flying or travel tips in the comments below.

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MSAA is Moving!

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is moving to a new location!

As of Wednesday, June 24, 2015, the address for MSAA’s National Headquarters will be:

375 Kings Highway North

Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08034

Please note that MSAA’s phone number, email address, website URL, fax numbers, and regional office contact information (other than the Northeast Regional office) will all remain the same.

Please update your records with our new address and continue to stay in touch with us!

 

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Summertime Memories

The summer season usually conjures up warm memories for me (sorry, no pun intended!) of times when things were simpler being young and summer was the best time of year. Growing up, my family used to gather at my aunt and uncle’s house for get-togethers and special occasions, especially during the summer months because their house was attached to a private elementary school where there was a lot of open area. They acted as caretakers to the school grounds so we had access to two different playgrounds equipped with slides, swing sets and jungle gym activities and a large tot-lot for playing basketball and volleyball. We often had family barbecues there and were so excited when the 4th of July holiday was celebrated because we could watch the fireworks right from their porch. These are some of my best memories I hold from my childhood – playing outside with relatives and being with family and thinking the summer should never end.

As we grow older our memories stay with us – as special pieces of time you’ve stored for yourself to take out and reminisce over whenever you’re feeling sentimental, or just want to recall something good. There are certain triggers that can activate these memories – songs, movies, places, things. For me, my summer memories are triggered by the smell of flowers and grass, barbecue grilling – and the charcoal kind, not the fancier gas grill devices seen all over the place nowadays. Rice Krispy treats – my grandmother used to make the best treats for summer occasions. And mosquito bites – I know this one is a bit strange, but those little buggers would eat us alive playing outside during the summer!

The point is, no matter what the memory is or its trigger, these precious fragments of time that represent moments throughout our lives are something to treasure and hold onto with care. They allow us to go back to times we remember fondly and that gives us hope that the memories could possibly be recreated again someday.

What’s your favorite summertime memory?

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A Little About Me

Meeting new people and learning new things is always exciting. I thought it might be helpful for you to know a little more about me. My name is Melissa Young and I am the new Manager of Client Services. I have my MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. In my spare time I enjoy playing golf and tennis, cooking and spending time with my family and friends.

As I mentioned in my bio, I love to cook. I also enjoy watching cooking shows on TV, and trying to replicate the dishes for my family. It’s always fun to try new things, and sometimes I even succeed at making the dishes look like they do on TV! My favorite show is “The Pioneer Woman” starring Ree Drummond. Not only is she a fabulous chef, but she is a blogger too. I read her blog faithfully and I think the introduction to her blog speaks to how I view my blog. It reads:

“I am no life expert. Not by a long shot. I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t have any answers. Sometimes I have some answers. Sometimes I have what I think is an answer but it turns out not to be an answer. Sometimes I dance around the house in overalls and stilettos. But every once in a while, perhaps because I’m an older sister myself, perhaps because I’ve lived 43 years, perhaps because I’m constantly seeking answers myself. I’m able to give an answer that works for someone.”

I’ve been a social worker for over 15 years and have had to deal with my fair share of unique and difficult situations. I have a good heart and always try to do the right thing. I know I don’t know everything (far from it) but I am here for you as a resource and will do my best to get you the answers you need.

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June 2015 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2015 Art Showcase – celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the new submissions.

June Artist of the Month:
Paula Breiner – Tamaqua, PA

 Paula Breiner - Sunny Disposition

About the Artist:
“I am an MS Survivor. No, I am not cured; it means I live day to day with this disease. I recently took a painting class to help strengthen my hand, to better my thinking and concentration, and because I haven’t drawn or painted since high school back in the 80’s.

I was diagnosed in 2006 with MS. Over the years I have developed more symptoms, and last year I was put on Rebif. I have a very loving and supportive husband whom I will celebrate our 30th anniversary with this November. We have two beautiful daughters and four amazing grandkids.”
Read more

Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Paula Breiner and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.

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Cool Summer Activities

As most schools around the country end their school year, many parents are finding themselves searching for activities that will preoccupy their children, but that are also accessible for the whole family. While many folks may opt for the parks or playgrounds in the warmer weather, individuals with MS may have to get creative to try and find activities that can be taken indoors during those warmer days to help avoid some of those heat-related symptoms.

But how can you entertain your children, before they tear through every cabinet in the household looking for something to do? Parents magazine provides some online fun activities that can be modified for any age group. Thinking about, or having a list of activities on hand may be helpful for days where MS symptoms are present, or fatigue has taken a toll.

Local programs are also available to children during the summer months. Many of these activities can be completed indoors to help beat the heat. Local libraries may have reading programs or special events; often they post these on their social events calendar or on a bulletin board in the lobby. Stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot or Joann Fabrics have free workshops available for families or children; you can call around to local stores to see if a calendar or events listing are made available.

Get creative this summer and see what fun activities you can find that can be completed indoors. Do you have any cool plans this summer?

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Summer Heat: The Enemy of the MS Patient?

By: Meagan Freeman

Before my diagnosis, the blistering sun of the summer season was my best friend. I was a swimmer, wake-boarder, and sun worshipper. I enjoyed my teen years, soaking up the rays in the California sun, trying to get a nice tan and reading magazines with friends. The hotter the better was my attitude! Boy, have things changed since my diagnosis in 2009.

Now, I have had to accept that the heat is no longer my best friend, but rather, my worst enemy. The heat of summer can be an incredibly challenging thing for those with MS, and it can lead to staying home alone while the rest of the family enjoys the beach, pool, and outdoor summer activities. For several years, I felt depressed about my situation. I had several relapses each summer, and my family members were enjoying my formerly favorite activities while I stayed home on the couch in my air-conditioned home, a virtual prisoner.

After several years of this seasonal imprisonment, I began to search for ways to beat the heat, and still enjoy family time outdoors. There are many options for combatting the summer heat, and I want to share some ideas for other individuals struggling with this issue. Fortunately for us, cooling technology has dramatically improved over the years. I always avoided cooling vests, merely because of vanity. I did not want to be seen with a bulky, unattractive cooling vest; but fortunately we have some wonderful, stealth options now.

The key is to keep the core temperature at a normal level, and through cooling technology, individuals can enjoy the summer days without experiencing flares and relapses caused by the heat. Heat leads to increased inflammation, which we need to avoid at all costs. Fortunately, simple cooling products can achieve the goal of maintaining a normal core body temperature, despite warm days.

MSAA has a wonderful program, offering free vests and cooling products to individuals who qualify for the program. The link for the MSAA cooling vest program is: http://mymsaa.org/msaa-help/cooling/. There is a short application to fill out, and this program can offer a vest to qualified patients at no cost. For those who may not be financially eligible, there are several other companies offering these types of cooling products. A good cooling vest can mean the difference between missing out on family activities, to being an active participant.

In addition to these products, I have found several MS vacation organizations, including the “MS Cruisers.” This organization offers cruises to many ports of call around the world, specifically tailored to meet the needs of MS patients. “This cruise is open to all MS patients, family members and friends who share an interest in the MS community, believe that health and fitness are powerful tools for overall well-being and independence, want to travel and interact with others who are facing the same challenges; and are aiming for the same goal of enjoying life to its fullest as they go through the process of adjusting their lifestyle to best suit their constantly changing needs.” (MS Cruisers.com, 2015.) Consider checking out this site for many options for amazing summer cruises. The site is located at: http://mscruisers.com.

I believe that the key to finding happiness and acceptance during a life with MS is to continue to enjoy all of the activities we enjoyed before our diagnosis. Through the use of simple cooling technology, and finding the right vacation options, we can continue to participate in life, enjoy the sun, and feel as “normal” as possible. If you find yourself imprisoned at home in the AC all summer, consider reaching out and trying one of these amazing programs. This can be your ticket to a wonderful, active summer season. Go enjoy it!

*Meagan Freeman was diagnosed with RRMS in 2009, at the age of 34, in the midst of her graduate education. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Northern California, and is raising her 6 children (ranging from 6–17 years of age) with her husband, Wayne. She has been involved in healthcare since the age of 19, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Room RN, and now a Nurse Practitioner. Writing has always been her passion, and she is now able to spend more time blogging and raising MS awareness. She guest blogs for Race to Erase MS, Modern Day MS, and now MSAA. Please visit her at: http://www.motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.com.

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Things to Consider for Summer Traveling

It’s here again – the summer season is upon us! Though for some people it actually may feel like it’s been here for quite a while depending on where you live. But the recent Memorial Day holiday really kicked off the start of the season for most around the country. With the arrival of summer some people start making travel plans and agendas for how to spend these months. Trying to schedule a trip can be stressful, and for those traveling with a disability or chronic illness, the planning process can be extra demanding. Ensuring certain accommodations are in place, scheduling stops and making arrangements for accessible travel are some of the necessary steps to take when planning a trip. Here are some things to consider in the planning phase:

Where are you going?

  • If they are needed – does your destination have disability accommodations? Like accessible bathrooms and sleeping areas, accessible activities/restaurants/shopping/travel routes within the town? It may help to call hotels and destinations beforehand to ensure their facilities meet your needs. This can help to decrease the stress of arriving at your destination and not having what you need to enjoy your trip.

What will you need for your trip?

  • Packing necessities like toiletries is just one part of the process. Having the appropriate amount of medications/treatments, equipment, and other products is important to ensure you won’t be left without something significant for your health condition while you’re away.

Who can you contact for help?

  • While planning a trip you will find there are resources available that can help you with the process. For example, you can work with a travel agent who specializes in accessible and disability travel that has knowledge on how to find locations and services that are accommodating for your requests. You can also get in touch with disability organizations and resources in the area where you’ll be traveling for additional assistance regarding local services and what’s available. Websites like Disabled Travelers and Access-Able Travel Source can provide information for accessible travel needs as well.

Do you have plans for the summer? What does your planning process look like?

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How MS Taught My Son a Life Lesson

By: Jeri Burtchell

I’ve discovered that children born to people with chronic conditions are often the most empathetic and compassionate people I’ve met. You can give kids life lessons when you’re in the grocery store and see someone using a cane or a wheelchair, but nothing quite explains the real everyday hurdles like living with someone who has a chronic illness.

I have two boys. My older son, Mark, was 16 when I was diagnosed. The younger one, Alix, was just six months. Mark was your typical teenager: independent and active, with a big circle of friends and activities that kept him busy outside the house. By the time Alix was a preschooler, Mark had moved out to begin his own journey into adulthood.

It was like raising two “only” children, with one big difference – the second time around MS was calling the shots.

Alix never knew me any other way, so the fact that I used a cane, or occasionally needed a wheelchair was just normal to him. He’d sit in my lap and ask me to take him for a ride. He didn’t see me as different. Nobody whispered to him “it’s not polite to stare”. When he looked at me, he saw his mom and nothing more.

He’s a junior in high school this year, taking honors classes. Tonight we’ll be attending an award ceremony where he’s receiving a mystery award. He’s been an easy kid to raise. Never gets into trouble and is always around the house helping out. He’s cheerful and never complains no matter how much I ask of him.

Things haven’t always gone smoothly, though. When he was in sixth grade he was having a hard time. The transition to a new school with new friends was a lot for him to handle. When it came time to attend one of his band performances at school, I really struggled over whether I should bring my cane or not.

I didn’t want him to be teased for having a mom who was different, but neither did I want to fall down. Which would be more embarrassing to his middle school mind? I decided to let him choose.

We stood by the car and I whispered to him, “should I just leave my cane here and ‘wall-walk’ where I can?,” and he looked puzzled.

“Why would you do that? Don’t you need your cane?,” he asked.

“Well, I don’t want to embarrass you, you know, if the kids tease you because of this or something.”

He became really indignant at the thought. “Just LET someone say something, Mom! Nobody’s going to make fun of you. What kind of person would do that, anyhow?,” he asked.

I used my cane and he took my other hand, proudly.

That was just one special moment among many that made me see that having MS has not always impacted our family negatively. Do I wish I didn’t have it? You bet! Does Alix sometimes feel “ripped off” that he didn’t get the younger, healthier model of Mom than Mark did? Yep.

But we do what we must to live the best life we can despite MS, and in the process it has helped shape my son into a fine young man who I know will always wear his compassion and empathy like a badge of honor. It’s who he has become, and I’m proud to be his mom.

So for those who have small children and wonder how your MS will affect them as they grow up, take heart. I bet they will be amazing, too!

*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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