Understanding Multiple Sclerosis: What My Unpredictable Disease Can Teach Us
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system and it affects each person differently. Symptoms range from numbness, tingling, weakness, fatigue, and vision problems. In more serious cases, MS can impact a person’s mobility, cognitive abilities, and emotional well-being. The unpredictable nature of the disease can also cause stress and anxiety for both the person living with MS and their loved ones.
World MS Day is a global event that takes place on May 30th each year. It’s a time to raise awareness about MS, celebrate the resilience of those living with the disease, and inspire action towards better understanding, care, and treatment. The theme for this year’s World MS Day is “Connections,” emphasising the importance of social support and networks for people with MS.
My Diagnosis and Living with MS
My personal experience with MS highlights the importance of World MS Day and the need for greater awareness of the disease. It all started when I was misdiagnosed with optic neuritis at the age of 19. At the time, I was studying hard for my exams and didn’t think much of it when I woke up one morning and couldn’t see out of my right eye. However, this was just the beginning of my journey with multiple sclerosis. It wasn’t until I had a relapse at the age of 23 while in Paris that I was properly diagnosed with MS. It was a scary and uncertain time, and I wasn’t sure what my future would hold. But as I learned more about MS, I realised that I wasn’t alone. There is a whole community of people living with MS who understand the challenges and struggles that come with this disease.
Living with MS can be a challenging and unpredictable journey, but it can also be an opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. The disease has taught me to live in the present, appreciate the little things in life, and prioritise my health and well-being. You learn to be more patient, resilient, and adaptable, and to find joy and meaning in everyday moments. This is also the case for many of the estimated 2.8 million people living with MS worldwide.
Understanding MS Makes a Difference
People living with MS need support and understanding from their family, friends, and healthcare professionals. A positive and supportive work environment can also make a significant difference; JPA Health is one such example of a company that understands the importance of supporting employees with chronic health conditions. Many employers are recognising the benefits of creating inclusive and supportive work environments that enable people with chronic illnesses, like MS, to thrive. Knowing that I have JPA Health’s support has made a huge difference in my life and has empowered me to keep pushing forward, even on the toughest days.
One of the biggest challenges facing the MS community is the lack of public understanding and awareness about the disease. Many people are unaware of what MS is, how it affects people, and the impact it can have on the lives of those living with the disease. This lack of awareness can lead to stigma, discrimination, and can make it difficult for people with MS to access the care and support they need.
Another challenge facing the community is access to care and treatment. While there is no cure, there are treatments available for the disease, but they can be expensive and not always accessible to everyone who needs them, leading to disparities in care and treatment.
Why Advocacy and Research Matter
Advocacy efforts are needed to ensure that people with MS have access to the care and support they need. This includes advocating for affordable and accessible treatments, as well as for policies that support the needs and rights of people with MS. World MS Day provides a platform for advocacy efforts, with events and activities around the world aimed at raising awareness and promoting change.
Research is also needed to better understand the causes of MS and to develop more effective treatments. While progress has been made in recent years, there is still much that is unknown about the disease. World MS Day provides the perfect opportunity to raise funds for research into the causes of MS, as well as for the development of new treatments and therapies.
How to Support
As World MS Day approaches, I am reminded of the importance of raising awareness about this disease and advocating for those living with MS. My story is just one example of the challenges and struggles that individuals with MS face every day. By sharing our stories, we can help to break down the stigma surrounding MS and promote greater understanding and support. I hope that on May 30th and beyond, we can all come together to show our support for the MS community and work towards a world where everyone affected by MS has access to the care and support they need.
To learn more about MS and how you can get involved or donate, you can visit the following organizations: National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Myelin Repair Foundation, and in the UK Multiple Sclerosis Trust and MS Society.