91 posts tagged “community”

“Everyone needs a “Me too!” moment” – Member Shannon on exposing her truth

Posted July 17th, 2017 by

“With every part of me that becomes less than what it used to be, a different part of me usually becomes more than what it used to be. In fact, maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult.”

Shannon (Sna2164) is a wife, mother, animal lover and writer, living in southern California. She was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 27 years old, with three children under the age of four. In a recent interview, Shannon told us about her diagnosis, starting a blog and her journey to peace and contentment with MS.

Check out her story about exposing her truth and helping others who feel misunderstood.

Searching for answers

While others can go through years of suffering while waiting for a diagnosis, Shannon’s experience was comparatively quick. It started six months after her youngest daughter was born. She began having terrible pain in her right eye, combined with temporary loss of vision in that same eye anytime she went from darkness to light or vice versa. In her quest for an explanation and solution, she used eye glasses she didn’t need and took antibiotics for sinus infections she didn’t have.

A few months into trying to solve the mystery of her eye pain, she rapidly began experiencing other symptoms including numbness, tingling, and Lhermitte’s sign (a burst of pain that runs down the back, arms and legs when the neck moves). As if slowly going numb from the feet up by inches every day wasn’t enough to alert her primary care doctor that she needed a specialist, one night she got up out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and hit the floor. She tried again, and hit the floor again. This temporary paralysis subsided within minutes, but it alarmed her primary care physician enough to insist she see a neurologist right away.

Shannon saw a neurologist for the first time in August 2004 and was officially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in October 2004 after an MRI of her brain and cervical spine revealed multiple lesions. She was 27 with three small children and had just been diagnosed with a condition she knew nothing about.

Finding strength through words

Starting her blog, diaryofadisease in 2015 was both a terrifying and freeing decision that Shannon says was the best decision she ever made. She’d been writing about her experience living with disease over the years and wanted to find a way to share it with others.

“I asked myself if creating a blog was really something I wanted to do, would I have regrets about not doing it, simply out of fear, in twenty years? And the answer was yes, so I forced myself to do it despite my long list of reasons I felt afraid and inadequate.”

Many months later, her dream became a reality. While there were many times she wanted to give up, her son stepped in and helped complete her vision for the site.

“He also took the photo on the home page which was anything but candid. I told him I felt like I was standing still in a world that was passing me by, and since he already was quite the photographer, he knew just how to capture my feelings in this photo that speaks volumes.”

When she released her blog, even those close to her knew very little about her struggles living with disease because it was, and still is, very challenging to talk about. Despite her fears, she knew it was important to be honest about her health and experience with MS. She also felt like there wasn’t enough information online that spoke to the heart about living with disease.

“There are volumes of information about MS and disease that speak to the brain about the scientific ‘ins and outs’, but nothing on how darn hard it is to suffer the symptoms. Everyone needs validation for their feelings, everyone needs a ‘Me too!’ moment.”

Although Shannon started her “diary of a disease” as a way to cope, she hopes that it’ll help others who feel equally as lost and misunderstood in their journey of disease.

“One of the greatest rewards is that in surrendering my pride and exposing my truth, my burden is much lighter, and the people who love me in my life have a means to really understand me in a way I could never communicate verbally.”

 

Adjusting to a new normal

Shannon’s new normal with MS looks and feels very different than what she thought normal meant before. As she moves forward, she’s learning that there are many definitions of normal and that it is okay to have limitations, to live against the norm, to change the way she does things, admit her weaknesses and slow down.

Shannon’s goal is acceptance and contentment. It isn’t always easy. Since living with MS means that each day can look different, the journey to acceptance and contentment needs to happen not once, but again and again. The principle she attempts to follow daily is:

“My value is in who I am and not in what I do, because I have spent too many years drowning in the ‘do better try harder’ mindset, and true peace isn’t found there, and I think that’s what most of us long for.”

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Going global for World MS Day

Posted May 31st, 2017 by

It’s World MS Day and this year we checked in with the global MS community to see how members around the world are living with MS. Here’s what they had to say:

 

 

“MS is very rare in India. I’m from North India, known as Kashmir, a very beautiful place and it’s rightly known as paradise on earth. For me living with MS is like dying every second in my crippled life. Imbalanced walk in MS really sucks. Shaking of arms or very poor pen grip in my hands makes me feel pity on myself. I don’t think that staying positive works. I had to leave my engineering studies and a government job because of it. Unfortunately, I can’t let others feel what I or my body feels for myself. I can’t afford the life-long treatment for an incurable disease like MS as I’m an idle cripple.”

 

“I am 50 years old and live alone with severely advanced SPMS. While my MS has progressed very quickly, since I have accepted I need care 22 months ago, the government has been EXTREMELY slow to catch on how desperately in need of care I am. I have [had] to fund most of my care in order to stay out of a nursing home, and tearing through my savings at a terrifying rate. You are living in Australia when you are paying taxes, but somehow living in a third world country when you are disabled. Neglect was not what I expected from MY country, and I feel ashamed of Australia.

There is no problem with people’s attitude towards disabled people, except of course, they can be totally naïve about what they can’t see – so being in a wheelchair and looking normal, they are likely to think your only problem is your legs. Stays in hospital for non MS conditions is a nightmare – inadequate staff, lack of equipment for the disabled and very poor knowledge and understanding by staff. You are a ‘fish out of water’ and not catered for.”

 

“Life with MS in the US is a challenge but not without its upsides. If you have to have an advanced form of MS that makes you stand out to innocent bystanders (an abnormal walking gait, dependence on mobility devices, a noticeable tremor, etc.), you may as well have it in the United States. Despite drawing reactions from generous & heartening to pitying, hostile or demeaning, the only unconquerable obstacles to leading a totally fulfilling U.S.-based life with MS would be the ones in your own head and heart.

My two biggest “life hacks” for living with MS in the U.S. have been: (1) equipping myself with a seated Segway: puts me at the same height as the people I’m “walking” with, eliminating the social barriers to conversation; and (2) perfecting techniques for ‘teaching’ able-bodied others how they can respond to my disability in more respectful and productive ways.”

 

“I think that living with MS in Italy is like everywhere else. If you are able to manage the disease, you can live in any part of the world. Of course, social care is important. In Italy, under the National Health System and Social Care System, depending on the severity of the condition, people with disabilities may receive free medications, diagnostic tests and aids such as a wheelchair, cane and diapers. As the National Health Service has become more and more privatized and run like a business, care isn’t properly delivered and the system does not work has it should. Personally, I stay away from hospitals, doctors and so on.

Disabled people are entitled to a reduction in Value Add Tax, from 22% to 4%, for items such adapted vehicle, or to adapt the house. In Italy, there are naturopaths and many traditional medicine doctors who follow a holistic approach. The historic town centers that make Italy beautiful have plenty of architectural barriers, but there are more and more improvements. I think Italy is a good place to heal.”

 

“There’s very little MS in Mexico so [doctors are] very interested in my previous treatments, how effective they are and how I manage my own illness. Seeing doctors in Mexico is very affordable. If I can’t get to a doctor, they will come to me for a modest fee of $20.00. There’s no time limit on how long my appointments are. They spend as much time with me as they think necessary to get a complete understanding of my medical issues.

I haven’t experienced any stigma associated with my illness. On the contrary, they’ve all been understanding of my limitations and very helpful. I never have to wait to see a doctor. Can see one the same day that I need to. They go out of their way to accommodate their patients. I’ve lived in Asia, the Caribbean and Mexico and have gotten treatment. The best medical treatment I’ve ever gotten has been in Japan and Mexico. Overall, I love the medical [care] I get here in Mexico. I still have to see a primary in the US once a year. I have an awesome doctor, dentist and therapist here in Mexico that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

 

“My MS journey began in 1993. I experienced minimal symptoms for 8 years but then a progressive loss of mobility over the last 16 years leaving me wheelchair bound at 67. I am however fortunate to live in Australia which has the reputation of having one of the best systems of medical care in the world provided by the Government’s Medicare Scheme.

In addition to Medicare, Private Health Care [coverage] is available albeit at a cost. Government also [subsidizes] the majority of MS treatments/drugs, which most people would be unable to fund themselves, and has recently introduced a National Disability Insurance Scheme for qualifying Australians. Having lived in Fiji and Papua New Guinea for 9 years during the early 2000’s and continuing to travel world with the help of my husband, it is not hard to state that Australia provides some of the best medical and physical facilities for disabled people.”

 

“I moved to St. Croix from Maine 10 years ago after vacationing here for about 40 years. As it’s an island most everything costs more because it’s shipped here from America. We have a Government-run hospital that struggles to provide basic healthcare due to meager funding and uncompensated care and a lack of specialists. There is access to neurologists. Private health insurance isn’t available unless provided by an employer. In my observations, there is little stigma associated with having a chronic disease or being disabled on St. Croix. The people are generally kind, helpful and friendly. Strangers are always willing to help with doors, reaching or picking items unlike my experience in my home State of Maine.

For me the climate, culture and my little house is nearly perfect for being outside and trying to stay active as I move like an old stick man and have more pain in temperatures below 50* F. The life hack moment that I experienced about a year after I was diagnosed generated from the thought, “If now now then when?” Being in “the now” became my focus. This led to moving here, getting a job and living with being bigender. My biggest challenge aside from negotiating the 300-year-old streets and sidewalks is to actively be as healthy as I can. I eat a plant based diet, exercise, and use alternative treatments like meditation, Ayurveda, Medical Cannabis and avoiding stress.”

 

 

“Having MS is difficult. As one’s mobility and senses get affected, it gets a bit challenging to move around independently, going to work and just keep one’s morale up. But with all of this, one thing in particular that I’ve noticed in my case (I’m a working professional in Mumbai, one of the most populous cities in India) is that, people everywhere are extremely sweet, polite and courteous to me. Which is really helpful as India has a lot to do (in terms of facilities and policies) to become more sensitive to Differently Abled People (DAP). But the helpful attitude of people more than makes up for lack of facilities.”

 

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