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To the editor:
Now you see me, now you don't. Today I look
"normal." I walk, talk and act just like you. You can't see my
symptoms. Tomorrow, however, may be a different story. I may walk
slow or even limp. I may lose my words or forget what I'm talking
about in the middle of a sentence. My balance and coordination may
be "off." I may be fatigued beyond anything you have ever
experienced, plus a wide array of other symptoms. It is different
for each and every one of us. This is called multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is the No. 1 most debilitating disease of
young adults there is. It does not discriminate. It can be very
difficult to diagnose or, like me, it can be very easy because on my
MRI there were so many lesions on my brain there left no doubt what
was wrong. An MRI is only one of the diagnostic tests used. There is
also a lumbar puncture to test the spinal fluid for certain
proteins, multiple blood tests and tests called evoked potentials,
which involve hearing, sight or motor function, that test the
transmission of nerve impulses from the brain to a specific part of
the body. Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? It is!
MS is a neurological disease in which the body is attacking
itself. More specifically, it attacks the insulation (myelin) that
covers the nerve fibers, which causes plaques. Those are the lesions
I referred to earlier. Some of the main symptoms of MS are:
1. Optic neuritis, in which you develop
blindness. Sometimes there is gradual improvement. Sometimes there
2. Loss of muscle strength in arms and
legs. This loss can vary from a loss of dexterity (your fingers
don't work so well anymore) to actual paralysis. Loss of muscular
strength occurs not only in the form of temporary relapses but also
in a gradual process with no recovery.
3. Sense of touch can be affected as
well. Numbness, a terrible burning feeling that feels like a steam
burn, or tingling or prickly feelings can occur. I describe these to
my friends and family like when your foot falls asleep and is waking
up, only having it 24/7 in my legs and feet.
4. Pain! The muscles being weakened and
then worked cause them to spasm, which is called plasticity.
5. Bowel and bladder problems.
6. Sexual difficulties.
[to top of second column in this letter]
7. Balance/coordination problems. You
may walk as though you are drunk. I once again have had this problem
and had it cause great embarrassment. I will never forget going in
to buy my husband some beer, early in my disease, and being told by
the clerk that it appeared I had already had too much to drink. I
don't even drink due to the amount and type of medications I am on
to control my symptoms!
8. Fatigue is probably one of the most
common and biggest symptom. Enormous fatigue.
9. Cognitive function such as memory
loss and speed of thinking can be a problem.
10. Depression also is a common
symptom. MS changes a lot in your life. Sometimes it turns your
world totally upside down. You can lose your career, you find
yourself suddenly disabled, you feel isolated. And sometimes, if you
get lucky after you have worked through all this like I have, you
will find many blessings because of this disease. See, the lesions
on the brain DO make you crazy!
Now that you are a little bit educated about MS, I want you know
that there are so many of you who know someone in this community
with MS and probably don't even know it. Or you know someone who
knows someone with MS. We are a large population here in Lincoln and
Logan County. Some of us are little children; some of us are out
there in the work force right beside you; some of us are unable to
work; and some of us are in our area nursing homes at relatively
young ages because we have become bedridden. But we want you to know
we are here.
The month of March is National MS Awareness Month, but the week
of March 2-8 is the kickoff celebration. Please wear some orange
during this week to show your support for those of us fighting this
New research shows promise all the time. We walk every year to
raise money for that research and to help our chapter help patients,
and this year's walk is Sunday, May 3, at Kickapoo Creek Park. We
would be honored if you would mark that date on your calendar, form
a team or join a team. Come walk for MS!
March 07, 2009]
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