All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for June 2003

Waking up to ordeal of MS

Sunday, June 8, 2003
By Dennis Hoey, Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald

There is no hesitation in her voice as Samantha Frasier confidently rehearses the lines for her starring role as Amanda Wingfield in the Brunswick High School production of Tennessee Williams' play, "The Glass Menagerie."

Though the 17-year Frasier makes acting look easy, her personal life has been anything but since she was diagnosed two years ago with multiple sclerosis. When she woke up in the morning on the day her ordeal began, something was very wrong. She was having double vision.

"It was really surprising," the Brunswick High School senior recalled. "I had no idea what was going on."

After a series of tests, doctors diagnosed Frasier with multiple sclerosis. At the age of 15, Frasier was told she was the youngest person in Maine with the disease.

According to the National MS Society, the chronic disease causes the body's defense system to attack myelin - the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers of the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged, nerve impulses to the brain are distorted or interrupted. Symptoms can be as mild as numbness of the limbs or as severe as paralysis or loss of vision.

The disease can be managed with medication. Frasier takes a daily injection to keep the condition under control. MS is not a fatal disease and most individuals can lead a near-normal life.

Frasier, who lives in Woolwich with her parents and younger sister, says she doesn't plan to let her condition interfere with her life. She will study theater in the fall at Roanoke College in Virginia and has not ruled out the possibility of acting professionally someday.

"I want to see where this takes me," she said. "I love being on stage and I love to perform."

Her theater teacher at Brunswick High School thinks Frasier has talent.

"Sam is very serious about her acting," Pamela Leddy said. "She doesn't treat theater as an after-school activity. Sam really takes acting to heart."

In October 2001, just a few months after being diagnosed, Frasier experienced a more intense flare-up. This time she experienced double vision and a headache so painful she had to be hospitalized. While she was in the hospital, she held one hand over an eye so that she could rehearse the lines to a play she was performing in.

"I have always admired Sam's determination," said her mother, Dawn Frasier.

It has been more than a year since Frasier's last attack and her parents say she has had a wonderful senior year.

She works after school as a hostess at a local restaurant, attended the senior prom, served as vice president of the school chorus and co-captained the speech team.

Frasier says she doesn't want people to treat her differently.

"I don't want to be known as that girl with MS because that is not who I am," she said. "I told myself a long time ago that I was not going to complain and that I wanted to lead as normal a life as possible."

Said her mother: "It may not be what we chose for her, but Sam has dreams and those dreams are going to be somehow woven together into her life."

Copyright © 2003 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.