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Letters to the Editor
Lincoln Daily News
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Lincoln, IL  62656

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Now you see it, now you don't

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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.

DonutsMultiple 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 is not.

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.

Auto Repair

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 horrible disease.

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!

Beverly Brown

[Posted March 07, 2009]

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