5 Things I Want People to Be Aware of During Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

March heralds Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness month. But what does this actually mean? In my life, I’ve found that most people are “aware” of MS; they have a second cousin twice removed who has it, or, as my husband used to think, “It is something that affects your mobility… so you end up using a wheelchair.” Heck, used to associate MS with wheelchairs… I remember being at primary school, meeting a man using a wheelchair – he had MS.

But if I was going to raise awareness of MS, there are a few simple things I would like to make other people, those who have no personal knowledge and experience of MS, to be aware of:

Aware…. that MS is a “snowflake” disease. We are all the same (we have the same disease, multiple sclerosis), but we are all different. We may not all have the same symptoms and, if we do, they may not affect us in the same way. One example is mobility – I have problems with my left leg and I use crutches and a scooter. Another person with MS may have problems with their hands, some may have to use mobility aids, some may not. Some may have “relapses” where their mobility worsens, then get gets a bit better; others will have problems with their mobility 24-7. Not everyone uses a wheelchair.

Aware… that MS is often considered a “hidden” illness. A person with MS may not experience any obvious problems that are easy to see at first glance.  But fatigue, dizziness, cognitive problems (such as memory loss, word-finding difficulties), blurred vision, numbness and bladder/bowel problems are all common symptoms. Most people with MS will tell you that people often say “But you look so well!” Putting on a bit of blusher can help me look “well,” but unfortunately doesn’t eradicate the hidden symptoms.

Aware… that we are the same as you. People diagnosed with MS are wives, parents, boyfriends, children… anyone can be diagnosed, though it is most commonly diagnosed in the 20 to 40 age group. We have or have had careers and hobbies, we still like to socialize and do everything that you like to do… it just may be a bit more difficult for us. Those of us who are visibly disabled may “look” different to you, but we are still the same person we always were, inside.

Aware… that there is ongoing research and new discoveries into new medications to help MS. Not everyone qualifies for them (it is that “snowflake” disease again) but, compared to when I was first diagnosed in 1994, the options for treatment are massive.

Aware… that for some people, diet and lifestyle may have a positive impact on their MS. Dr. Roy Swank first looked into the link between saturated fat intake and MS progression in the 1950s (those with lower saturated fat intake appeared to progress less and slower than those with higher intake).

This is what I want people to be aware of during MS Awareness month… is there anything you would like others to be aware of?

This blog was originally published on Tripping Through Treacle.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Yobro10

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Multiple Sclerosis

girl walking and holding umbrella, pastel illustration

10 Ways Multiple Sclerosis Affects Me

As it’s multiple sclerosis awareness month I thought I would do a little post on 10 things about living with MS. MS is completely different for everyone and no two people will experience it in the same way, but here are 10 ways it affects me. 1. I really don’t know half the time if it’s brain fog or I’m [...]
MRI scan and computer showing the brain

How to Stay Calm During an MRI

“That was the best MRI appointment,” said no one ever, but today I had the least unpleasant MRI. What makes an MRI bearable? To begin with, the technician communicated with me the whole way through the procedure. She told me what she would be scanning and how long it would take. For an hour and a [...]
A bear figurine on the gourd outside that looks like a doctor, medication behind him.

10 Tips for Preparing for a Doctor's Appointment

I’m writing this post from the hospital day unit. Everything’s fine. I’m just here to have my multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment changed. It’s standard procedure to be under observation for your first dose. I raised concerns with my doctor regarding my previous therapy as I was always unwell and had missed months of work. I don’t [...]
Young man is looking at the sunrise

The 'Small Things' I Sweat in Life With Multiple Sclerosis

Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s how the saying goes, right? But what if the seemingly smaller aspects of your life are actually the ones that drive your engine and spirit? Life with multiple sclerosis is not easy. Energy is to be rationed. The odd and sometimes agonizing sensations never cease. Pain is constant. The [...]