2 Jun 2003
By Lisa Young - Staff Writer
In June 2002, a young BYU graduate was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Like many who ail from the life-threatening disease, she wished to remain unnamed.
"I worked with doctors for about six months before I was actually diagnosed," she said. "My tests were so erratic, and, at one point, I lost hearing in one ear."
Now each week, she takes an injection to prevent the disease from progressing as fast as it otherwise would.
For the entire 24 hours after the medication, she said she feels tired and has flu-like symptoms.
"I used to take my shot Saturday evening so that I could have all of Sunday to rest but now I have realized that I feel better if I just push through and keep going," she said.
Without medication through a weekly shot, the chances of developing a more progressed form of the disease increase 80 percent, according to Dr. Robert Satovick, a neurologist at the University of Utah in a recent Salt Lake City seminar. Eighty-five percent of newly diagnosed patients have relapsing-remitting MS and less than five percent have secondary progressive MS, which is more debilitating.
In order to understand the disease better, many patients attend seminars like the recent MS conference in May.
While attending such a conference, a newly diagnosed mother of three young children said she was shocked at learning about the disease.
"I cried," she said. "I didn't know anything about it, and MS is a scary name."
She also said she wished not to be identified. She said feels it a personal thing, and there is no reason for people to know that she has MS.
At the end of January, her optometrist discovered optic neuritis in her eye for the second time. She received an MRI scan and other tests of her brain and spinal cord.
The MRI revealed white matter lesions or scars typical in individuals with MS, she said.
"The diagnosis of MS cannot be made on the basis of the first office visit," Satovick said. "One may suspect the diagnosis, but it is never discussed with the patient until further information is obtained, such as an MRI of the brain and spinal cord, a spinal fluid analysis and more."
Through the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the young mother gained helpful information from Child Life Specialist Pat Collins about how to inform children of a parent's chronic illness.
The Utah Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society helps more than 10,000 Utah MS patients and their families adjust to a new type of lifestyle.
"Research discovered that MS is most frequently found among people from colder, northern climates located in temperate latitudes north and south of the equator," according to the MS Society fact sheet.
This research reveals the northern location of Utah and the Northern European heritage of many Utahns is an explanation for the one out of every 1,000 people affected by MS.
Although MS is a debilitating disease, as one suffer said, after living
with the disease for a year, "I feel a lot more hopeful now. I know I can't
control it, so I try to live everyday in the here and now."
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