Speaker says only another patient can understand
Wednesday, June 5, 2002
By Erin Remai
Herald Staff Writer
Multiple sclerosis robbed Eve Cushing-Beyer of both her Navy and her nursing careers.
But now Mrs. Cushing-Beyer uses her personal experience to relate to other MS sufferers.
She spoke Monday evening at Hermitage HealthPlace to members of the Mercer County multiple sclerosis support group, offered through Sharon Regional Health System.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system -- the "engine room of the body," Mrs. Cushing-Beyer said. "That's what makes it so devastating."
Mrs. Cushing-Beyer talked about her story, treatment options, managing side effects, the psychological aspects of the disease and grieving for the loss of good health at a young age.
It's important for MS patients to have each other, Mrs. Cushing-Beyer said.
"We can have great spouses who are very supportive ... we can have great friends. Sometimes the only other person who will do is another MS person," she said. "Only they can understand the nuances ... we need to buddy ourselves up with another MS person and seek each other out."
Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Mrs. Cushing-Beyer went to high school in Philadelphia and now lives in Oklahoma City, Okla.
She's had the symptoms of MS for 12 years, but was diagnosed 10 years ago.
"It's typical of an MS patient to say when they were symptomatic and when they were diagnosed," Mrs. Cushing-Beyer said.
Her diagnosis came while she was on active Navy duty. "I discovered I couldn't run," she said.
To the casual observer, Mrs. Cushing-Beyer looks perfectly healthy.
"It can run the gamut from people who look fine to quadriplegics," she said.
Her symptoms started with pain in her right shoulder that progressed to paralysis. She also had a Lhermitte's sign, an electrical signal that courses through the body when the neck bends, she said.
More classic symptoms include vision problems, numbness and tingling, she said.
"Mine are not very obvious symptoms," she said. She has pain, fatigue and cognitive problems, which is one of the reasons why she had to give up her nursing career.
But the effects of MS are not just physical.
"There's a whole psychological dimension that goes along with the diagnosis of MS," she said. "It's not just the diagnosis of MS, it's losing your job, losing your insurability, losing your competitiveness, losing your friends ... friends don't know how to respond. It's like having several rugs yanked out from under you."
After her diagnosis, Mrs. Cushing-Beyer began volunteering with the Oklahoma chapter of the National MS Society, where she was able to apply her nursing skills. She also became a motivational speaker.
"I've just found a whole new direction," she said.
Mrs. Cushing-Beyer averages about two or three speeches a month all over the country. Monday was the first time she spoke in Pennsylvania; Tuesday she was due to speak in Greensburg.
Her visit was made possible through the Berlex Corp., a pharmaceutical
company that manufactures medication for MS, said Denny Rubano, director
of speech pathology and audiology for Sharon Regional and coordinator of
the local MS support group.
Copyright ©2002 The Sharon Herald Co.