So…you might be wondering, what exactly IS MS?
S= Sclerosis (for us common folk, scars)
Because I’m not claiming to be an expert, I’ve pulled the bullets below from the National MS Society webpage:
- Within the central nervous system, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves.
- The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name.
- When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms.
- The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.
Since our central nervous systems are pretty complex, and immune systems difficult to predict, MS is an unpredictable disease. One neurologist told me that every person has their own version of MS, and that no two cases are the same. One thing for sure, though, is that there currently is no cure for MS. As of now*, MS is a lifelong, chronic condition that I will successfully manage for the rest of my life.
I’m fortunate that I caught “Julie’s MS” when I did, because now I can be monitored and start a treatment (known as a disease-modifying therapy, or DMT if you’re in the know). Studies show that the earlier you start a treatment following diagnosis, the better outcomes tend to be. These treatments don’t cure or reverse MS, but are more of a preventive step to slow the progression of the disease.
I’ve been diagnosed with Relapse-Remitting MS, which means that I have periods of remission between attacks (or relapses). Some people experience long periods of time between their relapses, some don’t. But taking the DMTs help slow down the relapse rate and try to prevent further damage to your central nervous system. There are 14 (and more coming!) FDA approved treatments for relapsing-remitting MS.
So, with a positive attitude, loads of support, a great medical team, and the right DMT, I plan on boxing my MS back into the corner where it belongs.
*Yes, MS is a lifelong chronic condition for now. BUT, there is an incredible amount of research and work focused on MS right now. I truly believe that there might be a way to cure this disease in my lifetime!