2 posts tagged “life with MS”

Confessions of a research study addict: “It’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

Posted 6 months ago by

Elizabeth is a member of the 2018 Team of Advisors living with MS and a self-described research addict. Here’s what she had to say about her experience contributing to research and why “it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

I’ve always been a sucker for a focus group. Give me some free pizza and I’ll tell you everything you want to know about your product, service or ad campaign. In fact, I got into advertising as a career because I liked the research part of it so much.

So, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I applied that same mindset to my disease approach.

The first MS research study I did came a few months after my doctor prescribed Avonex. For someone with a virulent needle phobia, a weekly intramuscular shot sounded almost worse than having MS. So I spent the next few months imagining myself on a beach—right before I tried in vain to push an inch-and-a-half needle into my leg. The meditation didn’t quite take, but my passion for research didn’t waiver (thank goodness for a husband who didn’t mind giving shots and, later, the Avonex quick inject pen!)

Next came the EPIC Study — “an intensive observational study of over 500 people with MS who have been carefully studied since 2004.” I even got my parents involved as a control group. Once a year for twelve years I’ve been getting evoked potentials, an eye screening, a hand-eye coordination exam, and a bonus MRI — I also play a dreaded number addition memory game. I’m proud to be part of this study—last week I was lucky enough to see some of the preliminary findings that I contributed to (hint: there is some AMAZING stuff happening in the MS therapy world.)

I made a brief, but unsuccessful, journey into a Copaxone clinical trial where I had the honor of getting lipoatrophy faster than any patient my doc has ever seen. My case even made it into a medical journal. And while the dents in my thighs never let me forget this one, I like to think my experience helped someone else avoid their own unseemly dents.

My research obsession doesn’t stop with MS. I fit a patient profile for a breast screening study to determine if mammograms alone or with a DNA test can improve outcomes for detecting early cancers. I was happy to be a part of this work, plus I learned I don’t have a carrier gene—a nice bonus of helping out.

Yes, health studies are a bit addictive to me. I get a thrill from trying a new approach or having my data contribute to a new protocol. And while there are different levels of research (especially when it comes to drug trials), every observation, every data point moves our collective understanding about MS and chronic illness forward. I’m grateful to play a role in that; it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.

So, what’s next? The other day I heard about an MS gut microbiome study. The details are…a little gross. But sign me up!

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MS Awareness Week: Real-World Descriptions (and a Poem!) from Our MS Community

Posted March 12th, 2012 by

We kicked off MS Awareness Month by sharing some key facts we’ve learned from our MS community (26,000+ members and counting).  Now, we are digging a bit deeper in honor of MS Awareness Week.  You’ve already heard about common MS symptoms as well as frequent topics in our MS forum.  But what it is really like to live with MS – and how does MS impact not just those diagnosed with the disease, but all of us?

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has put together a video showing all of the ways MS impacts individuals, families and society.  For example, did you know that MS costs the US economy $28 billion each year?   Or the average MS patient $69,000 per year?  Another startling fact is that the average person with MS leaves the workforce 10 years after diagnosis.  (Most are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s).  Check out the video above to discover more about how MS impacts you, even if you don’t know anyone with the condition.

As for an accurate picture of life with MS, the best descriptions come from those who know best – MS patients.  In a recent discussion in our MS forum, patients asked each other what one word they think best sums up life with this chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.  What were their responses?  Here is a word cloud illustrating 30+ answers submitted by our community.

A Word Cloud of Members' Answers to "Describe MS in One Word"

Putting words together in a full portrait, below is a poem by friendinflare, a three-star MS member who has lived with MS for 10 years.  Not only does she depict some of the issues MS patients face, but she also speaks to the relief that comes from sharing your experiences with others like you.  (At PatientsLikeMe, you can share treatment and symptom data, status updates, private messages, forum discussions and much more.)

In early November, I discovered a website.
A place where MS’rs can talk about our plight.
Our symptoms are as varied as our usernames.
There are threads for information, advice and even games.
We have legs of jello, vision that’s blurred,
And limbs that tremble from damaged nerves.
We still remain hopeful – but no one’s been cured.
“Daily injections will help” our doctors have reassured.
Our fatigue gets so bad we are glued to our beds,
We have cognitive issues from lesions in our heads.
Most don’t understand us, we’re a breed of our own.
We talk everyday without picking up a phone.
Our computers are a lifeline to hope,
Letting us talk with MS’rs from all over the globe.
Even though fights can break out at lightning speed,
Members always support those in need.
Here’s to everyone at PatientsLikeMe.

Getting a clearer picture of MS?  Good – but there’s even more to come.  Stay tuned for our two-part interview with an MS patient who authored a book called “The Dumbest Things Smart People Say to Folks with MS.”