Tuesday, 3 July 2012

"Celeb" MS

The "celeb" way of announcing you have MS
MS has a new poster boy. Jack Osbourne has been recently diagnosed with MS after suffering from a bout of optic neuritis in his right eye. Jack’s announcement has sparked a flurry of media interest and MS is suddenly all over the news which can only be a good thing in terms of increasing awareness of this disease. The fact that Jack chose to reveal his diagnosis in a glossy spread in Hello Magazine is slightly disconcerting, as are the photos which show poor Sharon gazing at Jack with what I assume is maternal concern. I say assume because (bless her) the botox and surgery make it quite difficult for her to move her face into any expression at all.

Botox jibes aside, self-proclaimed “Adrenalin Junkie” Jack has recently become a Father and this diagnosis must be absolutely devastating for the whole family. It is said that his motto is “adapt and overcome” and I applaud him for this approach but the truth is he doesn’t really have any other option. He is a young man with a wife and new baby daughter and he needs to stay positive and be proactive if he and his family are to survive the MS rollercoaster.

Jack will not yet know what type of MS he has as he is in the early stages of the illness. The vast majority of people (myself included) suffer from the relapse-remitting (RRMS) form of the disease whereby there are periods of inflammation “attacks” or “relapses” whereby symptoms usually come on over a short period of time – over hours or days. They often stay for a number of weeks, usually four to six, though this can vary from very short periods of only a few days to many months. Relapses can vary from mild to severe – I have experienced symptoms at both ends of this scale including:
  • Complete paralysis from the waist down 
  • Severe vertigo which resulted in sustained periods of vomiting 
  • Blurred vision
  • Numb legs, tingling, unable to feel changes in temperature (problematic when getting in the bath!)
  • Extreme pain in my lower back and neck
  • Weakness and numbness in my arms

The good news for RRMS sufferers is that usually patients make a good recovery following a relapse. The bad news is that every time you have an attack there is always that seed of doubt in your head that you might be left with some long term damage – a leg that limps, a slightly weak hand, pins and needles in your feet.

Like Jack I was diagnosed in my mid-twenties. Like Jack I came to the conclusion that my only option was to adapt and overcome. I had a bullish determination that this illness was not going to beat me and I am pleased to say that, fifteen years on, it hasn’t beaten me. Nonetheless there have been times where MS has come close to getting the upper hand. What I have come to realise is that the mental battle is just as tough as the physical challenges of the illness.

MS is a weird disease – when I am well I can almost forget that I have it…almost. I went for years without having a symptom, it retreated into the distant background of my life; some of my newer friends didn’t even know I had MS. Then I woke up one morning with a numb hand, the next day I couldn’t do my bra up, a couple of days later my legs went weak and I suddenly couldn’t walk. This uncertainty can mess with your head. Symptoms can disappear as quickly as they arrive but there is always that nagging doubt in the back of my head that this time I won’t get away with it; that my luck will run out and I will never get my full function back.

This is why I am trying to stack the odds in my favour by following a few basic rules: eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, taking fish oil and Vitamin D supplements, exercising regularly, reducing stress in my life (where I can) and, most importantly, having a positive mental attitude. Easy to say, hard to do, especially when you are newly diagnosed and your whole life plan appears to be falling apart at the seams.

I obviously don’t know Jack but the Osbournes strike me in general as a family who face adversity head on.   What is certain is that Jack will need all the strength and support of his loved ones to “adapt and overcome” Multiple Sclerosis. This illness will surely be his biggest challenge yet and I wish him well.

1 comment:

  1. "there is always that nagging doubt in the back of my head that this time I won’t get away with it; that my luck will run out and I will never get my full function back."

    This. Definitely. I've been really lucky so far with how this has affected me, but there's always that worry in the back of my head and I suppose it always will be there, for all my positive thinking and exercise and all the rest of it. That's just the way it is, for all of us, right?

    Love that Beautiful Day video though.