Day by Day:
Grasp of MS grows deeper with each day
By LIZ THOMPSON
March 19, 2018
As years pass, I am more convinced that everyone struggles with something physical, spiritual, intellectual — or a combination of these.
Today, we have the ability to be more aware of what is happening in other people’s lives beyond our families and close friends, in large part due to social media.
Add to that our ability to research electronically and to hear news on television, radio, smartphones and computers, as well as to read newspapers, magazines and a myriad of research and historical documents and nonfiction and fiction books.
Who knows what might have changed if we had this type of communication when Sylvia Lawry’s brother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the early 1940s in New York?
The family pursued cures for years without success, ultimately leading Lawry to place a small classified ad in the New York Times in 1945 that read: “Multiple Sclerosis. Will anyone recovered from it please communicate with patient.”
Lawry received more than 50 replies from individuals who were “desperate to find encouraging news about MS,” according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website.
She realized “the need for an organized effort to stimulate and finance research into the cure, treatment and cause of multiple sclerosis,” the society notes.
The next year, Lawry gathered 20 research scientists to found what would become the National MS Society. She devoted more than 50 years of her life in the pursuit of a world free of MS. Many continue her efforts today.
March is MS Awareness Month.
No cure has been found, but the society has devoted more than $600 million to research since Lawry’s work began. Its website, nationalmssociety.org, has nearly 2 million visitors each month.
Every March, I write about MS to help those living with the disease or who have a loved one or friend with MS not to feel so alone — to share the knowledge so people can move on and talk about something else other than their disease.
I have been fortunate over the years to talk with hundreds of people with MS.
One of the many facts I gleaned was that we want people to understand what MS is, but we don’t want to be known just as “that person with MS.” We want understanding so we can take someone’s arm for balance or ask for simple assistance, if needed, then move on.
I believe that is a hope most people have, no matter what they are dealing with, that others understand but don’t stay focused on their condition or problem.
As recently as 10 years ago, if I told someone I have MS, I would need to clarify and say “multiple sclerosis.” Now I read novels in which characters have MS, and it’s not spelled out.
MS symptoms can mimic stroke, so it helps to know that MS is a disease of the central nervous system in which the body attacks the protective coating surrounding nerves, leaving scars. Those scars interrupt the signals from the brain to the body, meaning we might lose our balance or vision; have numbness, muscle spasms, difficulty talking, swallowing or walking; experience shooting pain, weakness, seizures or fatigue; and in the worst-case scenario, could become paralyzed.
We know so much more each year. Research dollars have taken us from having zero drugs for MS when I was diagnosed in 1987 to 16 drugs, all proven to prevent flare-ups that can cause new damage.
Researchers are working.
We hear about so many medical conditions daily, with the barrage of advertisements for medicine and pop-ups on our screens. If those conditions do not affect us, we turn a deaf ear, mute the television or ignore the ads. There is only so much we want to or should absorb.
If someone is struggling with anything, a compassionate response is the best medicine — no dollars or advertisement needed.