Why You May Not Know That I Have Multiple Sclerosis

A little known fact about me is that I have multiple sclerosis (MS). Having been diagnosed as a teenager, I have had plenty of time to come to terms with my illness. That said, I still find I avoid telling people in my life, nor do I speak about it at length with friends.

In fact, I have a very small circle of loved ones who I share with openly. Despite this, my MS is always with me. It accompanied me through university and grad school, it was there on my wedding day, it comes to work with me and is here today as I write.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not embarrassed or ashamed. Rather, I want to avoid the perception of what people believe MS to be. Most people have an experience with the disease – whether it is a best friend’s dad, a former coworker, or Sophie’s mom on “This is Us.”

When someone hears you have MS, their first response is often, “I’m so sorry.” That’s because the image they have is of someone older, possibly using a wheelchair, and incapable of living a happy, wholesome life. People are also worried. Even the most well-intentioned become scared and think it’s just a matter of time before things begin to snowball out of control for you. They imagine the worst case scenario.

But with advances in research, more effective and more widely-available treatment options, not to mention people being diagnosed earlier, MS is very much an individualized disease. In fact, I suspect you have someone like me in your life too. Someone whose invisible struggles may not be so obvious. Someone who prefers not to burden you with their reality. Someone who does not want to be treated any differently.

Next time you hear a reference to MS, remember that it may also be the woman at the gym training for her next race, your doctor, lawyer, accountant, or a fellow parent teacher association (PTA) member. We may have a chronic illness, but we are also vibrant and capable…. and pretty normal.

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