Married to an MS patient

My wife was diagnosed with MS in Mar 2013. What started as some minor back pain, which we thought was just a strain, evolved into pain that moved across her lower back, around her hips, and became numbness down her leg. After a week in the hospital, and a full battery of tests (blood work, MRIs, CT scans, spinal fluid tests, etc.), the doctors eliminated other potential diagnoses, and were comfortable concluding it was MS.

That experience was my initial exposure to MS, and the 'learning curve' has been steep for both of us and our family ever since. After a few months of additional tests, screenings, and preliminary appointments with a neurologist who specializes in MS, the neurologist confirmed the MS diagnosis.

My wife then discussed medications with the neurologist, and after she chose one, she had to see some specialists based on the potential side effects of her chosen medication. Fortunately, everything 'checked out' with the specialists, and my wife was able to start taking the medication. She has had to adjust to the medication (she takes it now before bed because of how it makes her feel), but it pales in comparison to adjusting to her MS symptoms.

It is tough for me to hear her say (paraphrased), "I feel like I have the body of an elderly woman, for every day I wake up wondering what part(s) of my body will bother me today." I know it is a lot tougher for her to constantly deal with at least some symptoms every day, but sometimes I lose sight of that reality. She tries very hard to not let the MS affect her, but I know she struggles with those times when she has to 'give in' to the disease, and take a much needed break.

I have found myself talking to many people who know as little about MS as I did before my wife was diagnosed with it. I share with them some of the best 'sound bites' I know about MS in general, and my wife's MS in particular: MS is a 'fingerprint disease' - it is different for everyone who has it; once you know one person with MS, you know one person with MS; it is believed MS is a disease in which the body's immune system attacks the nervous system, and destroys the myelin that protects nerves (just like the outer casing on wires protects the wires inside) - symptoms vary depending on which nerves are exposed when the myelin is destroyed; asking whether my wife is having a good day is fine, but often a better question is whether she is having a good morning/afternoon/evening/night; MS drugs do not cure MS, but they do help minimize the severity of her symptoms when she has a 'flare-up,' decrease the length of her 'flare-ups,' and increase the time between 'flare-ups' - my wife takes other drugs/treatments for her symptoms; MS is a challenging disease, with a lot known about what it does, but little definitively known about why it does what it does to those who happen to get it.

The reality is that our lives are forever altered by my wife's MS. However, while MS requires us to constantly adjust to it, we are still in control of our lives, and we choose how we will deal with the disease. There is great comfort and power in knowing we have control and choices.

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