You’ve heard of multiple sclerosis, but how much about this disease do you really know? Here’s a primer on MS, which an estimated one in 385 Canadians live with (this staggering number means our country has one of the highest rates of MS in the world).
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
MS is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which your immune system, which normally protects your body from bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks tissues in your body. MS attacks the central nervous system, in particular, the protective covering of the nerves, called myelin. Myelin helps to transmit nerve impulses through nerve fibres. When the myelin experiences significant damage, which in some cases causes scar tissue to form in the place of myelin, this can completely interrupt nerve impulses and lead to damage to the nerve fibres. This breakdown in communication between nerve cells translates into the body not being able to receive the directions it needs to complete functions like talking, walking, learning and seeing.
Who is at risk for MS?
The most common group diagnosed with MS is adults aged 20 to 49, however, both people much younger and older than that age range have been diagnosed with MS. Also, women are three times more likely than men to suffer from MS, and it is more common amongst people with a northern European background.
Symptoms of MS
Symptoms can vary given the unpredictability of this disease and every person living with MS experiences it in a different way. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, tingling, weakness, vision problems, bladder issues, poor coordination, impaired cognition, and changes in mood. Although it can greatly affect your energy, sleep and quality of life, MS is not fatal.
Life with MS
Nobody plans for a disease and to receive unexpected news, especially as it relates to your health — or that of a loved one — it can take the wind out of you. Managing MS looks different for each person as it depends on the type of MS, symptoms, prior health status, and lifestyle. Life with MS can be challenging and it can take a toll mentally, emotionally and physically as well as, impact loved ones and caregivers. Whether you’re recently diagnosed or have been living with the disease for some time, there is support and research out there for you.
That’s what happened to Sari, our Head of Talent at Carrot. Last July, she’d been brushing off what seemed to be symptoms of a pinched nerve. But when things worsened, she made the right call and headed straight to the emergency room. It only took 24 hours for Sari to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
As a mom to two amazing children and a wife to an incredibly supportive husband, fear will inevitably set in. And that’s normal. As Sari’s symptoms flared up, life became increasingly difficult as she juggled family, work and tackling daily tasks.
Support comes in many different ways. Whether it be a kind word, helpful gesture or a shoulder to cry on, remember that help is not far away. Share your story with the people close to you, connect with support groups who can offer first-hand experience and solutions, be honest with your medical team so they can ensure you receive the proper care — and resources.
Sari has been living with MS for almost a year and we’re so proud of her. She’s honest with her feelings. She lets us know when she’s happy and when she’s not doing so great. There’s comfort in being allowed to freely be yourself, not just at home but with your work family too.
On May 5, 2019, Sari crushed the Mandarin MS Walk (5KM)! The night before the walk, Sari was feeling a little overwhelmed but the infectious energy from the other participants and deafening cheers from onlookers along with the loving smiles from her family fuelled her to power through. In the words of Sari, “I have MS, but MS does not have me.”
It takes a village to lift and support one another. Those close to us and those we randomly cross paths with. Encouraging words, offers of support and a kind smile can make a world of difference in someone’s life. So share some positivity today to make a difference – big or small – and never be afraid to ask for support!