An arm enters the frame from the left with a paintbrush in their hand. It is drawing circles around multiple spots on the body.

The Comorbidity Quandary

When you have other medical issues along with multiple sclerosis, you have a comorbidity. Comorbidity is a harsh word. Morbid is an even harsher one. It brings up images of a dark sense of humor and of death itself. For me, it is a bad joke that my comorbidities have a deathly serious effect on top of my M.S. The difficult part of the comorbidity for me is not necessarily the medical issue itself, it is the baggage that comes with it.

How common are comorbidities in people with MS?

It is estimated that nearly half of all M.S. patients have a comorbidity with hyperlipidemia and hypertension, gastrointestinal disease, and thyroid disease being the most common.1 It obviously has an affect on the course of treatment for M.S. as well as on the person living with it. They can disqualify you from clinical research, and it can make life more difficult. Depending on what it is, you can be dismissed and shamed for it. One of my comorbidities is obesity, and it is the one that stands in my way the most.

MS and obesity

Morbid obesity is a problem for me, but not necessarily from a day-to-day perspective as far as my M.S. Yes, being superfat (my term) does have disadvantages. Participating in M.S. walks is one thing I won't be able to do anytime in 2020 or maybe 2021. It is a danger to my health, but guess what is also a danger to my health? Judgment from those who feel morally superior and from those who are in a position to be a part of my healthcare team. I have also been a barrier to my own health by taking those harsh words or actions to heart and internalizing them.

Assuming my health problems are related to obesity instead of MS

It is one thing to talk health, its another to use it as a battering ram or as a way to belittle my multiple sclerosis. Issues related to my hip or walking are automatically assumed to be from being fat. That is until it was discovered that muscle laxity caused by multiple sclerosis was the primary factor. The same with arm spasticity. Even elements of what, decades later, turned out to be trigeminal neuralgia were thought to be caused by an overactive jaw, i.e. overeating.

Being dismissed and shamed by medical professionals

It was this incessant drumbeat that has been responsible for my lack of understanding of my M.S. symptoms. Where I was quick to blame being fat, I had to learn was in fact it was multiple sclerosis. It was an easy out to see the problem as weight. All I had to do was lose weight and all of my problems would be solved. No fat, no worsening M.S. symptoms. Lose weight and multiple sclerosis would be less of a problem. Lose weight. Lose a comorbidity and your multiple sclerosis is nearly solved. That sounds crazy because it is, and I believed it because medical professionals said so.

No excuse for substandard care

Yes, I am fat. Yes, it is a comorbidity. It is no longer an excuse to accept substandard care. It is no longer an excuse I give myself to ignore my M.S. I am superfat and that does not negate my M.S.

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