Although most patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are diagnosed between age 20 and 40, my story is a little different. After I got diagnosed with MS at age 53 and the doctors walked me through all my symptoms, we found out I had been walking around with undiagnosed MS for more than 30 years.
I freaked out. After researching this disease, the symptom that scared me the most is what they call one of the “silent symptoms,” which is impaired cognition. I really got worried that I wasn’t going to be able to focus and think – that this ability would decline with me.
But at the same time, I was relieved, because my diagnosis answered a lot of questions. Why am I so tired? Why am I losing my balance? Why am I dizzy, or why can’t I think straight?
MS is a rare disease where the immune system eats away at what protects our nerves. Affecting roughly 200,000 people each year, it’s a complicated disease to understand, and one that, currently, has no cure.
Living with MS can make each day unpredictable. Every morning when I wake up, I never know how much gas is going to be in my tank. Although I’ve had this disease for most of my life, it didn’t get severe enough to warrant a diagnosis until a few years ago when I began suffering from balance issues, tingling and fatigue. My doctors and I believe that menopause and age caused my MS to progress and become more noticeable.
I was so scared after my diagnosis, but things are better now. Thanks to advances in medicine, today you can live with MS and still lead a rewarding life. I am on a regimen of treatments that help manage my symptoms, and there is great support staff through the local National MS Society chapter in my community. I also credit my fighting ability to the support of family and friends. I volunteer at a local senior home because connecting with people and giving back gives me the strength I need to keep going.
The amount of new, approved therapies for MS in the five to six years since I’ve been diagnosed have been notable, and that tells me that scientists have been active researching my disease trying to find better, more effective therapies for controlling MS. Currently, there are 33 medicines in development for the treatment of MS.
Additionally, I’m grateful to the community of biopharmaceutical researchers developing treatments.
My glass was not always half-full, but now I’m looking back and seeing what it was like after my diagnosis, and the difference today is encouraging. I have decided that I’m not going to let my diagnosis get to me.
To me, MS is no longer anything to be afraid of.