Working in medicine with MS

It’s been more than four years since my diagnosis after a prolonged episode of double vision. I was in medical school at the time and initially brushed it off, but the MRI didn’t leave any doubts.

I’ve learned a lot over that period of time – I am never symptom-free (mostly terrible paresthesias that worsen with fatigue and heat, but worsening to difficulties with walking and grip), so priorities have changed. I know I can’t spend the day outside when it’s more than 85 out and humid, because I pay for it later. I know hot baths are out of the question, and I will never vacation in Florida. I’ve learned that I turn into a crazy person on steroids (painful hunger!), and I will do just about anything to avoid them. Used to be on Avonex, but developed antibodies and new lesions, so now on Copaxone. It has certainly made me a more empathetic doctor – injecting daily, having the occasional reaction with shortness of breath and burning, and those unsightly site reactions.

I know that my crazy work schedule (sometimes 80 hours a week) isn’t ideal, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m at one of the top hospitals in the country, so it’s not exactly a pressure-free environment. I do fear that my symptoms will progress to the point that I won’t be able to practice as an ICU doctor anymore – but the goal is to do it as long as I can. Hopefully long enough to pay off those student loans…

Bottom line, it’s been difficult to do much more than work and sleep over the past few years. When things get tough, it’s helpful to read everyone else’s stories, so I thought I would share mine.

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