In the beginning of May, I agreed to take part in a program initiated by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada called ‘1 Day in May‘. I received a package which contained a cane, eye patch, pins, needles, and bandages. I was expected to live with MS for the duration of the month.
Every day in Canada, three people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). That’s over 1,000 friends, family members and co-workers a year. In fact, our nation has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. Yet many Canadians don’t know much about this debilitating disease and the devastating effects it can have on those who live with it every day. Ironic, after agreeing to take this challenge, I rekindled a relationship with an old co-worker who was recently diagnosed with MS when we hired her back in 2007.
Life has been a roller coaster right for this 26-year-old woman who struggles daily with pain and depression. She’s had a multitude of hurdles to jump over……..too much for a young girl her age. I shared with my friend how ironic it was for her to come back into my life while researching this piece.
Common Factors about MS
- MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. Every day, three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS. While the exact cause of MS is not known, current research increasingly points to a complex interplay of environmental and possibly genetic risk factors. Together these two factors may influence a risk for developing MS given a prescribed set of conditions which are yet to be discovered.
- Optic neuritis is one of the most common visual symptoms of MS. Optic neuritis is the result of inflammation of the optic nerve and presents as sudden onset of visual blurring or loss of vision in one eye, particularly in the central visual field.
- Depression is much more prevalent in people with MS than in the general population. More than half of people with MS will experience a major depressive episode at some point over the course of the disease. MS experts believe that depression is a symptom of MS as well as a response to it. Fortunately, depression is treatable and treatment can greatly improve quality of life for people and their families living with MS.
- Memory or recall problems are the most frequently reported cognitive symptoms in MS; however, memory loss seems to be confined largely to recent events. Cognitive changes can be one of the earliest manifestations of the demyelination associated with MS and will affect about 40% of people with MS to varying degrees.
- Paresthesias are spontaneous abnormal sensations (not brought on by a stimulus) that can include burning, numbing and ‘pins and needles.
- Balance and vertigo, or dizziness problems, are common in MS and can be difficult to manage. Occupational and physiotherapy, in addition to assistive devices and in some cases medications, can help manage this troubling symptom.
- Numbness is the most common sensory symptom, and usually occurs with an onset in one or more limbs. Sometimes the sensory disturbance can be painful. Achy, burning sensations, a feeling of tightness or banding – these are known as ‘dysesthesias.’
- Learning how to cope with the stress will help you communicate with loved ones and will allow you to manage the curveballs MS may throw at you more effectively. The responsibility of caring for someone with MS often falls on friends and family.
- Injection site reactions are relatively common with injected medications so it is important to rotate injection sites. Individuals starting an injected medication for the first time should be instructed on how to safely and properly deliver an injection by a health care professional.
This journey has been an interesting one. It is so hard to visualize the realities of having MS even with props. The physical and mental anguish varies from day to day, month to month, year to year, and person to person. I have known people with MS who embrace every day despite being in a wheelchair. While others, like my friend, has been riddled with so much anxiety over it. I certainly have a different perspective about a common disease that touches so many.