About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

Heat and MS

By Suzanne Marriott

It is known that exposure to heat causes a worsening of symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis. This was certainly true for my husband, Michael, who suffered from MS. Our first experience with hot weather was when he was first diagnosed and was waiting outside his doctor’s office for me to pick him up in the car. Unfortunately, I got confused trying to figure out the correct exit from the parking garage and he was left standing outside in the warm afternoon. When I finally picked him up, he said, “Why did you do this to me?”

We hadn’t realized that the heat would affect him. We’d both thought that he’d be better off waiting for me to pick him up than walking all the way to the car. But he had weakened considerably in that short period and had been afraid of falling down. He later apologized to me, realizing I hadn’t meant to abandon him to the heat, but we had learned an important lesson that day, one we never forgot. 

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Summer Heat and Changing Goals

By Stacie Prada

Each day, week, weekend, season, and year, I like to think about what my goals are. What will I want to accomplish?  When it’s over, will I have a sense of fulfillment for the choices I made and how I spent time?

Each season or time of year has a different set of inherent challenges that aging and multiple sclerosis make more challenging. Spring and autumn consistently trigger fatigue and body malfunctioning for me. I blame the weather changes and obligation surges.

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Our Needs as Loved-One and Caregivers

By: Suzanne Marriott

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I remember when my therapist reminded me that my husband was often in survival. She was referring to the most basic of human needs as defined by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs. 

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Intentional Motivation

By Stacie Prada

It’s hard to stay motivated to do everything I think I should do to be healthy and live well with Multiple Sclerosis.  It seems like the hope of living with fewer MS symptoms and potentially less disease progression should be enough motivation, but temptation, fatigue, and a bit of resentment that I even have to deal with MS demotivate me.

Demotivation can also come from unlikely sources.  A few years ago, I saw a physical therapist for hip pain. I described the fitness routines that I’d done for years. It included a daily minimum stretching and activity quota, and I was proud of myself for always doing it.  I was very flexible and fairly strong. My habits supported my fitness level.

Accurately, the physical therapist told me I had plateaued with my exercises. I needed more strength training to address the hip pain and improve my fitness level.  I did the prescribed exercises until the pain subsided, but it was tough doing everything they suggested. I was discouraged that I wasn’t doing it all. Not only did I stop doing the prescribed exercises, but I also stopped doing my minimum daily fitness regimen. 

I took good information, and I mentally warped it into nonsense.  Because my previous minimum daily routines weren’t enough, I concluded they weren’t worth doing. I justified that I was still active and exercising, I just wasn’t doing it daily. 

Put in writing, it’s obviously flawed and unhelpful logic. In my mind, it made sense.  In reality, I squandered good habits that were helping me.  After a few years without daily stretching, my flexibility and strength diminished. Things that used to be easy are painful. I recently reintroduced my daily minimum regimen as mandatory, and I’m seeing improvement. My flexibility and strength are increasing, and my movements are less painful. 

Reflecting on this experience inspires me to be more intentional about what motivates me and what discourages me. 

The motivation that comes from excitement works better than fear.  I have more success working toward goals than trying to avoid potential consequences. I want to feel like I’m being rewarded, not punished.

My resentful and fearful thought process is that I have to exercise so that I maintain my mobility as best as possible because I have a sucky disease that mostly targets my spine and affects my legs and arms. If I don’t keep moving, I won’t be able to keep moving.

My enthusiastic thought process is that I get to exercise and live in a body that can do things I enjoy. The better I treat my body, the better I’ll feel, the more I’ll be able to do, and the better odds I’ll have aging with MS. If I keep moving, I’m more likely to be able to keep moving.

Both approaches are true, and both work. When my resentful mindset kicks in, I hope to notice it and not give up.  I want to remember how much my body has done for me and continues to do for me and set a goal that excites me.  It doesn’t have to be a big goal, it just needs to be meaningful and encouraging. When motivation comes from an enthusiastic mindset,

I’m eager to do what’s good for me, and I’m happier overall. It’s a win-win!

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/ 

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Ask the Expert – Anxiety

Featuring Barry A. Hendin, MD 

Headshot of doctor Barry Hendin, chief medical officer for MSAA
Barry Hendin, MD

Question: Is anxiety a common symptom of MS, and if so, what are the signs and symptoms? 

Answer: Anxiety is, indeed, a common symptom of MS. It is estimated to occur in almost half of the MS population, at some point. It often coexists with depression but can occur independently of depression. Unfortunately, anxiety is under-recognized and undertreated due to the clinical emphasis on depression alone. 

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Gretchen Steele – May 2023 Artist of the Month

MSAA features the work of many talented artists affected by multiple sclerosis as part of our annual MSAA Art Showcase. Each month we share these artists’ inspiring stories and beautiful artwork with you as our Artist of the Month. This month, we celebrate Gretchen Steele as the May Artist of the Month. Gretchen is from Coulterville, IL.

Dripping Orchid Dreams

About the Artist – Gretchen Steele

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Multiple Sclerosis Generations: From Diagnose & Adios to DMT to Crowdsource

By: Stacie Prada

Generations offer connection with those before us, with us and after us.

When age groups are categorized by generations, it’s interesting to see how birth year and world events influence life circumstances and outlooks. In the United States of America, the generally accepted generations include the Lost Generation, the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomer Generation, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z and Gen Alpha.  It occurred to me that people with Multiple Sclerosis could also be considered as living in other various generations depending on how old we were at first symptoms and diagnosis, the year we were diagnosed, and the understanding of MS and available treatments during early adulthood. 

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Introducing the 2023 MSAA Art Showcase

MSAA is proud to introduce our 2023 Art Showcase! We received numerous submissions created by gifted artists from across the country. Take a moment to look through this year’s Art Showcase by visiting our online gallery.

March Artist of the Month

All That Glitters

All That Glitters

Jaclyn Spencer – Ogden, UT

“I have been painting for a few years now. Learning something new always seems daunting to me with my MS cognitive issues and physical pain. I paint to free my focus from my frustrations into something creative and potentially beautiful. I use it as therapy, taking a short break from my reality and expressing my pain or happiness on canvas.”

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The MS Journey

By: Gina Ross Murdoch, MSAA President & CEO

Welcome to MS Awareness Month. Each year, MSAA dedicates the month of March to focusing on topics important to the MS community. This month, we will be exploring Life with MS: Different Stages of the Journey. Over the next few weeks, we will explore topics critical to living with MS at varying ages.

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MSAA Focuses on MS at All Stages of Life During MS Awareness Month

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and MSAA is excited to present four full weeks of valuable and inspiring resources, programs, and strategies for all ages! We are dedicated to spreading awareness, education, and support to individuals, families, and care partners in the MS community, and this month is no different. Our MS Awareness Month initiatives focus on “Life with MS: Different Stages of the Journey” and include a multitude of programs that address MS management in all life stages.  

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