March 5--11 is MS Awareness Week.
I've written several times about living with MS. I was diagnosed a year ago (Feb. 2006) and am still learning how to live with it. I'm one of the lucky ones with a mild case and have been told the chances are real good that I may never have any dibiltating symptoms. "The chances are good." That's the caveat--chances--because there is no predicting this disease. We know that some things, such as extreme heat and cold, will make symptoms worse. But a full relapse that feels like your body is just giving up on you is hard-to-impossible to predict.
A lot of people ask what exactly MS is. There are standards answers, as stated on the MS Society website:
Multiple sclerosis (MS) isn't fully understood, but many believe it's an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, or CNS. The CNS includes the brain, the spinal cord, and the optic nerves, and it's surrounded by a fatty tissue called myelin that protects the nerve fibers and helps them conduct electrical impulses.
When a person has MS, he or she loses myelin in more than one, or multiple, areas. The resulting scar tissue is called sclerosis. Sometimes the nerve fiber itself is damaged or broken. When myelin is destroyed or damaged, the nerves can't conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain as well. This breakdown is what produces the symptoms of MS.
I like to explain it another way. You know those large, orange extension cords you use outside? When that orange coating (like the myelin) wears away for whatever reason, the wires are exposed. The cord still works, but sometimes it may short and it may not run as well, but it still works. If the cord gets several of those worn away areas, that's just more opportunity for the cord not to work as well. And eventually, that cord may stop working all together because the wires have broken and the connection can't be made. That's when nerve damage occurs--things like the permanent tingle in my left foot, for example.
There is no cure. There have been amazing strides made towards a cure, and there are amazing advances in medication, most of them slowing down the progress of the disease by 40%. The MS Society website does an excellent job of keeping us informed on what research is out there, what advances are being made, and where the government support stands.
Many state chapters will be holding an MS Walk and/or an MS Ride in the spring. I'm planning on joining in, but there is one thing I can do today.
This is the MS Band of Hope. It's another rubber bracelet, which I know seem to be everywhere, but it is a good tool for MS awareness. I've had a few people ask me what my bracelet is for. On a personal note, I like wearing it because it says "Hope" and I like to be reminded that somewhere people I don't even know are working on a cure.
I have 9 child/women and 10 men's bracelets. If you would like one, drop me an email, and I'll send you one through the mail. I won't be able to send them out until after I get back on the 17th, but I will get them out that week of the 19th.
Knowledge is power. So, I like doing my part to keep everyone in the know.
Little Side Note: I may not be posting or reading and/or commenting on everyone's blogs for a while. I leave on Wednesday for Scotland and am busy, busy, busy! I'll try to check things along the way at Internet Cafes, but if I don't talk you before then, have a great couple of weeks. Love, Warrior Lass