By Gina Ross Murdoch
Welcome to MS Awareness Month! Over the next five weeks, MSAA and the entire multiple sclerosis community will focus on a myriad of areas around living with MS, diagnosis, research, advocacy, and the impact MS has on loved ones. These are all important areas of focus throughout the year but now, in March, we take time to really lean in on what they mean for the nearly one million individuals living with MS and those who love them.
Awareness is defined as “knowledge or perception of a situation or fact” and “concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.” These definitions give us a good starting point, but “awareness” goes much deeper than that.
We can start with awareness about symptoms that may lead someone to seek medical care. That is the beginning of “awareness” in a complicated MS journey. This “knowledge of a situation” could be the awareness of an MS diagnosis and what that means for the person diagnosed with MS, their family, friends, employer, and so much more. The realization of how MS impacts your daily life – this “new normal” can be its own journey. The state of awareness requires an active and purposeful search for knowledge and understanding. In the MS community, this can be a path of self-discovery on what MS means to each individual. It can be raising awareness in others so that they can be part of your care circle, or it could be bringing awareness about MS to those outside the MS community but who have significant influence on the lives of those with MS, such as legislators and employers.
During this year’s MS Awareness Month, MSAA is focusing on “Shaping the MS Experience” as our theme. We will be touching on topics such as selecting an MS therapy, the science behind MS, and a discussion about MS progression. All of these programs offer critical and needed information around life with multiple sclerosis. Through this month’s offerings, you will also become aware of the dedicated work being done in your community and across the globe to improve the lives of all affected by MS. Tune in to hear more about the exciting and groundbreaking advances that will impact the future of MS treatment decisions.
What I hope you also gain from this month is an awareness of the many sources of support available to all impacted by MS. These sources of support may come from MSAA’s online forum, My MSAA Community; it may come from joining a webinar; or participating in our Instagram Live events. No matter where you are in the country, MSAA’s Helpline is available to offer a compassionate ear and expert knowledge to make callers aware of help in your community. Support may also come from friends and family, a fun hobby, a loving pet, or the happiness you feel in viewing a beautiful work of art. MS Awareness Month challenges us to perceive not only the struggles of life with MS but also the community and kindness.
I encourage you to take advantage of the national awareness and education efforts all throughout March. For more information about MSAA’s activities for MS Awareness Month, please visit mymsaa.org/ms-awareness-month. I also invite you to be part of MSAA’s mission of improving lives today by leaning into your own way of raising awareness, offering support, giving hope, and recognizing the power of your own perception to make a difference.
*Gina Ross Murdoch is a seasoned executive in non-profit management and has served as MSAA’s President and CEO since 2016. Her career includes leadership positions with chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the American Diabetes Association. Earlier, she spent 14 years overseeing development activities at a large chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, leading explosive growth initiatives and ground-breaking strategic projects. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts on how MSAA is improving lives today, or to learn how to get involved in our mission.