All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for April 2004

MS patient battles disease

April, 2004
Julie Blum
Columbus Telegram

Every morning when Robbin Cutsor wakes, she wonders if this could be the day.

She knows what might be in her future. A time when she is no longer able to walk.

Even simple acts like taking her dog B.J., a cocker spaniel, out for a romp in the yard might not be possible for her.

"I get up with my dog every day, and I think, 'am I going to be able to take him out?'" Robbin said.

Her concern is due to multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease she was diagnosed with in 2002.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause vision and muscle problems, altered sensation, fatigue, abnormal speech and affect balance and coordination.

Cutsor experienced her first symptoms of the disease two years ago in October.

"It was the week of my 29th birthday, and I had a headache right here for nine days," Robbin said placing her hand over her left eyebrow. A white spot later developed in her left eye making her vision blurry.

After visiting with several eye doctors, Robbin was diagnosed with optic neuritis, a condition where the optic nerve is inflamed, causing blurred vision.

Optic neuritis is common among people with multiple sclerosis, which is why Robbin said she was sent to a neurologist in Fremont the following month.

A MRI was performed on her at Fremont Area Medical Center. The results showed that six lesions were on her brain.

The lesions, or plaques, are formed when breakdown occurs in the myelin, which is a protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibers of the central nervous system.

Balance and coordination tests and a spinal tap were also part of her diagnosis process, Robbin said.

The results of the tests did show that Robbin, now 30, had relapse-remitting MS, the most common type of the disease. There are four types of MS each with varying symptoms and severity. People with relapse-remitting have flare-ups of MS that worsen neurological functions. But those flare-ups are followed by either partial or complete recovery periods.

When Robbin learned of her disease, her initial reaction was one of fear.

"I had no idea what it was," she said.

Her husband, Joel, 27, said they were both in denial for a while after hearing the diagnosis. But they heeded the advice of doctors who said Robbin needed to begin treatment to combat the disease.

Treatment for Robbin includes taking shots of the medication Copaxone every day and staying as active as she can.

But because MS causes her weakness and fatigue, she isn't able is to go on as long of walks with Joel as she used to. She also has to avoid the heat because that causes her symptoms to flair up.

The disease hasn't hampered Robbin enough that she can't work as a service representative at Hubbard Feeds and a part-time job at 7 Mile Mini Mart. The fear that one day she might not be able to work or even care for herself is always with her, though. The worst thing that could happen, she said, is having to depend on others for care.

That is a reality she has seen first hand at MS support groups she attends. At a recent meeting in Fremont, she said of the 12 MS patients there, four were in a wheelchair.

"It was a big reality check," Robbin said.

Knowing that it could be her in that position keeps Robbin motivated to take care of herself. When times arise that Robbin doesn't have the drive to give herself a shot of medication or feel like she is fighting a losing battle, Joel is there to push her along.

He is the one who reminds her that if she doesn't do the things the doctors suggest, then she will lose some self freedom and be one of those people in a wheelchair.

If there is one thing that both Robbin and Joel want others who have MS to know, is that it is crucial to listen to what their doctor's say.

"People who do know they have it, get treatment," Robbin said.

Joel said the disease will not got go away by ignoring it and things will not get better unless you take the steps to make it happen.

"You just have to take it day to day," he said.

Copyright © 2004, Columbus Telegram