As I talk with people, I know that they have questions about Multiple Sclerosis. I know that they have questions about my specific case. As they look at my situation, they wonder why I use crutches to walk while they see Montell Williams on TV not using any type of assistance. Why did Ann Romney not need anything while on the campaign trail in 2012 with husband Mitt? Neil Cavuto of Fox News Business seems to get along well (although you never see a wide angle shot). People may know someone who has had cognitive issues with MS. I had someone tell me that I would be running again soon because they saw Jack Osborne do an adventure race on TV with MS.
I was diagnosed at the height of the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which caused quite some confusion among friends who thought that I had ALS. Those with ALS are the true fighters, as ALS will generally become fatal in an accelerated time frame for those individuals. I am lucky, in that the general life expectancy for someone with MS is not impacted significantly. I will likely die of an unrelated cause, just as I would have without this disease. When I was diagnosed at 33 years old, most people were surprised that my ability to walk was impacted so severely, as I had been a runner and cyclist. What most people don’t know is that I have been living with MS for at least 16 years. What they also don’t always realize is that people with MS can be highly capable of great physical feats while they have this disease.
This is a list of feats that I accomplished while I had MS, and that I am extremely proud of now that some things make more sense (This is not meant to be boastful in nature, merely a statement that this disease does not shut you down automatically):
*At least two seasons of college baseball while not having most feeling in my hands or legs (misdiagnosed as a spinal compression issue)
*14-5 Record on the mound during those two seasons. Ranked 10th nationally in ERA in 2002
*Wins against the German, French, and Slovakian National Teams during the summer of 2002
*100 mile road biking adventures with my brother 2008-2013
*Half Marathon PR of 1:41 at the Atlanta Half Marathon (Had to withdraw from the full due to Stress Fracture but did not want to waste 13 months of training) 2008
*Ultra Run of 35 miles 2006
The short story is that having a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science, concentrated in Performance Enhancement was probably my biggest issue. I was able to make sense of each problem, and when the symptom went into remission I forgot about it. At a certain point, each relapse causes you not to get back to 100%, thus causing more lasting damage. What most people see is the result of years of damage.
There are also different stages and types of MS. There are Relapsing/Remitting, Secondary Progressive, Primary Progressive, and Relapsing/Remitting Primary Progressive. I have the most common form, which is Relapsing/Remitting. Approximately 85% of those diagnosed find themselves in this category. Relapsing/Remitting means that there are episodes of symptoms, followed by a remission.
I want to encourage you to take a look at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website, which is a wonderful source of information. They also do a ton of work to push for legislation and research to help those with MS. I have become involved with them in the last year. I am also posting a great video from their website which explains what MS does to the body. I consider myself extremely lucky to mainly have physical issues with walking, while not having any cognitive or visual issues. It all depends on where the body is attacked in relation to the brain and spinal cord. Thank you for reading this brief explanation of my situation, and feel free to send any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you!
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
All info below is from www.nationalmssociety.org
Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”
- Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
- The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name.
- When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms.
- The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.
- People with MS typically experience one of four disease courses, which can be mild, moderate or severe.