Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fighting Against MS Together

I wrote this for a piece about caretakers. It wasn't used, but I wanted to share it with all of you as Abe has been so supportive and wonderful during my diagnosis and everyday ever since then.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. It was a scary time as I didn't know anything about MS. I leaned on Abe, my husband, and together we did a lot of research online. I was disappointed that the only therapies available at the time were "injectables" as I quickly learned I had a fear of needles. It was important to me to start on a therapy as soon as possible and that meant getting a shot. My neurologist and I decided on a weekly intramuscular injection. I was given a DVD to watch and was told a nurse would come to my home to teach me and Abe how to give the shots. We bought oranges to practice on with the nurse's instruction and I would be receiving my first injection. At first it didn’t seem so bad when it was the orange getting an inch and half needle piercing through its skin! When it came to my turn, however, my new fear overtook me. I had gotten shots at my doctor’s office before and have a few tattoos, but this was different. I already knew there was no way I could inject myself so Abe volunteered. He really stepped up as my caretaker.

The next week it was just me and Abe. We made the preparations exactly as the nurse taught us and planned to inject into my thigh. However, right when Abe would get to the “1” in the countdown I requested I would swat my hand at him that I wasn’t ready and needed more time. He told me the sooner I got the shot the sooner it would be  over with. It sounded reasonable, but again fear over took my body. I don’t know how long it took, but eventually I had the shot. Many weeks were like this. I was on this therapy for a year and a half and that whole time I couldn't give myself the shot. My fear was so strong that I couldn't even look at the needle without feeling nauseous. During this time Abe was my rock. I truly counted on him as my caretaker to help me try to slow down this disease. Every week he would make all the necessary preparations as I would try to relax in another room. As soon as the shot was over, I would start to have anxiety about the next week's injection.

After that year and a half I switched my therapy to a once a month infusion. Abe has been with me to every infusion appointment and every neurology evaluation. I still get nervous around needles but having an IV placed is much less stressful for me than a long needle!  Abe and I have been fighting against MS together since day one, and he has always given me support in any way I need. I have a found a passion to raise MS awareness over the last few years and recently started blogging and mentoring the newly diagnosed. I also started a Facebook support group that Abe co-manages called Friends Against the MonSter. Abe and I have participated in Boston's Walk MS for 4 years and will continue to fund-raise until a cure is found. I feel so fortunate to have a great support system and to know that Abe is there for me today and everyday!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hoping the Negative Streak Continues

During my October infusion I was re-tested for the JC Virus and had my Vitamin D levels checked.  People who are on Tysabri get the blood test to see if they have been exposed to the JC Virus. Usually people are exposed to it as children through the common cold, but it is possible to be exposed as an adult as well.  People who are JC positive can still take Tysabri but their chance for a rare brain infection, called PML is higher.  I have yet to decide what I would do if I tested positive... but I don't have to worry about that because.......for the 3rd year in a row I tested negative! Also, my Vitamin D levels came back good.  I am so excited and relieved! I will now be tested every 6 months for the JC Virus... let's hope the negative streak continues! (How often can you say that?!)

During my last infusion, I had some more blood taken to participate in a study for patients on Tysabri.  For a few reasons I became light headed and dizzy after having the IV placed and my blood taken. After a little while I felt better and Abe - who has come with me to every infusion - decided to "whomp" me with a pillow to cheer me up and caught the moment in a photo.

I have been on Tysabri for 4 1/2 years and am really careful not to catch colds. At work I wipe down my desk, phone, computer and printers a few times a day. I most often wipe my pens, since I am often handing them to patients to use. I am glad it has paid off -- plus I now rarely catch a cold which is great since it takes longer for MSers to recover and sometimes colds can trigger symptoms.  I hope that the negative streak continues for a long, long time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Florida Vacation

Last month I went on vacation and enjoyed a week away. I had a great time! I went with my friend Barbara to Florida and we spent most of the week in Vero Beach and 2 days in Orlando.
I was a little concerned if MS would rear it's ugly head while I was away, but didn't have any more trouble than if I was at home. I tried not to get too excited about my trip, thinking it would cause some increased symptoms.  I also was considering if I should take the opportunity to board my plane early, when they allow people with children to board and anyone who needs extra time. Both flights I didn't.  I knew if I wanted to, I had a complete right to, but was concerned with what other people would think. Kind of like getting use to using my handicap placard (for the whole story see my blog Handicap Placard).  But, I am still at a point where I really don't need the extra time, and I am thankful for that!
My week consisted of shopping at the wonderful outlet stores (so many great deals!), relaxing, watching movies and we got to see manatees! We spent some time in Downtown Disney, which has a lot of stores, restaurants, a movie theater and more. The weather was great and it was mostly warm and sunny every day. My picture above is from a display in Downtown Disney.

There is a hot air balloon in Downtown Disney that we could see from the balcony in our room. The last few times I have been to Orlando, there was another hot air balloon there and I fell in love with it. I am afraid of heights, but there is something about this balloon I love. Someday I would like to face my fear and go up in the balloon.

I did however face another fear. I don't know how to swim, but enjoy going in pools. Though, I have never put my head underwater. I tried a few years ago on my last vacation, but was too scared. I knew this year I wanted to face this fear and I am happy to report I did put my head almost completely underwater three times! The first time I definitely needed a little help (by help I mean push!) from Barbara. After that I was ok on my own and below is proof of my accomplishment!

We also had some great meals. We had a little kitchen area in both our hotels so we were able to go grocery shopping and eat in our room.  We ate out too and enjoyed Italian food from Olive Garden (they have a great deal - dinner and a take home dinner for the next night at a great price), a tuna melt from the Earl of Sandwich and a delicious pot roast dinner from Cracker Barrel! Vacations always go by so fast! I did miss Abe (he doesn't like traveling so he held down the fort at home) and was ready to come home by the end of the week. Though, it's always hard getting back into the swing of things.
Below are a few more pictures from my trip. Here's to my next vacation!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Potty Mouth

Since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis over 6 years ago, I have read many books about the disease. My favorite type of MS book to read are autobiographies. When I didn’t know anyone with MS, I found these books comforting, hearing someone tell me their story.

I learned about the book Potty Mouth by Renae Clare on Facebook.  I just finished it and really enjoyed it. This book talks about the struggles Renae has had throughout her life and her 40 years since diagnosis. Renae is honest about the struggles she has had and doesn't sugarcoat anything. The book is called Potty Mouth because Renae herself has a bit of a potty mouth, but c’mon… hasn’t MS made you want to say a few profanities now and again?! Renae has a theme of humor throughout the book and comes up with some pretty amusing chapter titles. Here are a few for your enjoyment:

“Hospital Beds and Catheters and Wheelchairs… Oh My!”

“My Mother Was Not a Dustpan”

“Koo Koo for Coupons” 

Renae started the book by suggestion of her psychotherapist, Dr. Cinzia Levalds. She wrote essays after each session and then compiled them into the book. Throughout the book you see Renae coming to terms with lifelong difficulties and her moving past them. Renae's ex-husband, whom she calls Fuckwad verbally abused her throughout their marriage and left her for another woman.  That is difficult enough to deal with, but throw MS into the mix and you've got some hard times for sure.

The book also gives helpful tips. Renae is now in a wheelchair and needs assistance. She had some rough times with hired help and tells us to upfront set boundaries (she learned the hard way) and questions we should ask the person coming into our home. She also tells us the benefits of Life Alert. Ya know.. "I've fallen and I can't get up?" Well, for those times you really can't get up, it truly is a lifesaver.

I found this book refreshing in the way that the book is completely honest and Renae is inspiring. No matter what crap life throws at you, it is always possible to come out on top. It's definitely not easy, but possible!

Find Renae's Facebook page for Potty Mouth at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Potty-Mouth/372368106132310

Or her website at http://www.thepottymouthbook.com
where you can hear Renae speak about the book in an interview.


Monday, August 27, 2012

The Flare I Could Not Ignore

My sister Annie and I with Snowball
in the late 90's
For those of us with Multiple Sclerosis we know that stress may increase our symptoms.  No one likes to be stressed out or go through something traumatic, but we never think this kind of situation will lead to a life-changing diagnosis as it did with me at the age of 26.  Back in June 2006 my cat, Snowball passed away after being a part of my family for 24 years.  Snowball was like the little brother I never had. Growing up, Snowball always knew when I was upset and would come into my bedroom to comfort me.  He liked to lay down on my school work and always was ready to play.  Even though I moved out at the age of 19, I visited home often and in 2003 when I started at my current job and got a full hour lunch break, I started having lunch with my mom at my childhood home and Snowball would join us always wanting in on people food.  Snowball lived a happy and long life, but losing him was losing a family member.  It took a toll on my parents, my older sister and me.  

Baby Snowball 1982

Less than a month later I started having tingling and numbness in my left foot and my left knee swelled to almost the size of a grapefruit.  I went to my physician who thought maybe I hit my toe and pinched a nerve.  Not before long though, my other foot became tingly and numb and soon it spread to my legs. One Saturday I was in the shower when I realized I couldn’t feel the sponge on my torso and stomach, and my fingers felt numb too. I knew something was really wrong.  I called my physician’s office, not sure really what to do since it was the weekend, but found that they had a doctor on call. Luckily, it was my doctor and she told me to go to the ER. I called my mom and off we went to my first ER visit.

Feeding Snowball
At this point I really had no clue what was going on with me, but never thought it was something serious. I had plans with my friends that night and told them I would probably get a prescription and would meet up with them later in the evening. I was in the ER all night and was admitted for 4 days, being released on Independence Day. I had MRIs, a spinal tap and numerous tests that lead to my diagnosis.  Many of the doctors that came to see me during my hospital stay had asked if I had experienced anything traumatic and it all came back to losing Snowball.

Of course, now knowing the symptoms of MS, I know I have had it a lot longer than my diagnosis date, as it often is with MSers.  As a child I remember experiencing Lhermittes, an electric like sensation that radiates from the neck and down the spine. I remember thinking it was kind of a funny feeling and every so often would bend my neck down to see if I would feel the shock again. I had no idea other people didn’t experience this until I learned about MS.

Another example is from 2004 when I took a trip to Disneyworld for the first time. It was during this trip I experienced optic neuritis, where I lost part of my vision and saw a flashing square light. It was like when someone takes your photo and uses the flash and you see that image for a few moments afterwards. For me, that little square didn’t go away for quite some time. I don’t recall how many weeks I had it for, but I didn’t think at the time it was anything serious. It is so interesting to think back to this time, knowing now I was experiencing a flare up. But, the stress and sadness of losing my precious little Snowball brought out the strongest flare I could not ignore.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Night With Clay Walker

On August 7, 2012 I went to a TEVA Neuroscience event that featured country star Clay Walker, who has RRMS and a panel of 3 neurologists.  The evening started with Dr. Ann Cabot who briefly explained what Multiple Sclerosis is and what therapies are currently available. Then Dr. Cabot along with Dr. Guy Buckle and Dr. James Stankiewicz sat down for a Q&A session. During registration we had the opportunity to write out questions for the doctors as well as Clay Walker.  Some of the things the doctors were asked about included BG-12, a new therapy that should be coming out in 2013, as well as the recent controversial British study about the beta interferons not delaying the progression of MS.
After the doctors finished the Q&A session there was an intermission and then a short video was shown about Clay Walker and the foundation he started. Clay Walker and his band came out and he spoke about his experience with MS in between playing some of his hits. I must admit, I was not familiar with Clay Walker’s music, but hearing him play live with his band was great. He has an upbeat energy and after hearing him speak for a little while, it became clear that he is a motivational speaker.  He told us that when he was younger he was a runner. MS had taken that away from him, but slowly he started running again. He said that if you push yourself further than you have previously after a while you will see the difference and feel triumphant over this victory, whether it is half a step or holding yourself up from your wheelchair a few moments longer. He said we should always try to push ourselves a little further.  He said our caretakers are the #1 person to help encourage us and help us meet our goals. This event was geared towards people with RRMS and their caretakers. I didn’t go with Abe, but with my friend Kim.  Clay said that our caretakers are more scared than we are about our MS, which I was glad he mentioned. I have thought about this before, but wasn't sure. So to hear someone say it out loud and confirm it, made me glad. We all need to think about how our caretakers feel, as they may not talk about it very much.   
Towards the end of the night, Clay Walker invited up Dr. Buckle to play guitar on one of their songs. Clay told us that Dr. Buckle hadn’t played for 10 years, but it sounded like he did a great job. On another song, Dr. Stankiewicz played the banjo. It was a lot of fun seeing the doctors play with the band.

It was a great night! I saw some friends and made a new one. I encourage anyone to check out their local MS events. They are free and fun! And you might get to see a famous country star!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Handicap Placard

This past November I brought my first car at the age of 32. I absolutely love having a car and am so thankful that I am able to drive.

That being said, sometimes walking from my car to places has caused some trouble, especially in the hot weather Boston has been having. After I bought my car I inquired at the office I work in if I would be able to park in their very small garage. I have been working there for 9 years but am still considered a newbie as most of my coworkers have been there for more than 20 years! So, there were people ahead of me to get the space that had newly become available. My boss suggested to me to apply for a handicap placard. It had not occurred to me before to apply for one, but followed his suggestion. I easily found the form online and had my neurologist fill out the appropriate information. Shortly afterwards I received my placard in the mail. I never had paid much attention to placards, so it was a surprise to find my license photo on the front. Lucky for me, that photo turned out really good, but I use the sleeve that was sent with the placard to cover the photo when I have it hung up in my car.
At first I felt uncomfortable using the placard. I felt like since I “look so good” other people walking by may make comments to me about why I would be using a placard. There is a handicap space across the street from my office where I park every day. After expressing some concern to a friend and coworker of mine about using the placard, she made me realize that I had no business feeling uncomfortable. Abe, my husband, also helped me understand that I needed to use it, for my own safety. After repetitive motion, my legs and arms get tingly and numb and walking even a short distance can make me feel fatigued, not to mention a handful of other symptoms. I started to feel more confident and started using the placard outside of parking at work.
One day not too long ago I was walking from my car back to my office after my lunch break and fell down. I wasn’t badly hurt but twisted my ankle and called my office (thank goodness for cell phones!) to have a couple of the girls come out to help me get back inside. It was sort of wake up call for me that I not only need to move a little slower (though that may not prevent the fall as all of us MSers know) and that in fact, I do have MS and need a little help.
I now have no problem using my placard whenever I need to.  I am so thankful that my boss suggested this to me. No one has ever made comments to me, but if they do I am ready for them. I have started to notice other people who have placards who “look good” and realize that disability (I don’t really like that word) comes in all shapes and sizes. This one happens to be 5 feet and Greek!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

MS and Heat Do Not Mix!

There is a heat wave in a large portion of the US and Boston is no exception. My MS does not like this one bit!

Last week the weather was high 90's and very humid. Today is not much better. I must say on these kinds of days, I really do not mind being at work, in an office with AC! I am fortunate to have an AC unit at home and my apartment is fairly small, so the one AC keeps the whole apartment cool enough.
On days like these, my MS acts up more than usual, as I am sure it is the same for many people with MS. The heat intensifies symptoms, and for me the most annoying one is the increase in tingling throughout my body. Sometimes I feel like shouting to my body, “Enough already!”  You might think “Good thing she lives in New England when there are extremely cold winters!” Nope!! The winter and cold weather have a whole set of negative effects of their own. Luckily me! I am sure that it is not uncommon to many of you too, but it’s no fun.

It's only the end of July, so there is plenty more summer to go. To survive the heat as best I can, I stay indoors by the AC as much as possible. At times that can be a bummer, but I find a lot of activities to keep me busy, like writing! (I also love reading.)  I try to keep hydrated (which everyone should do, MS or not) but sometimes find it difficult as I am not water’s #1 fan. (Please don’t suggest flavored waters, I like those even less than regular water!) I also try to run errands early in the day when it’s the coolest out which works well since it is also when I have the most energy.

There are, however additional things I could do to help myself out, but I don’t. For example, my new car has a lovely remote start function, where I can start the car from indoors. This means if I leave the AC on in the car, when I get inside, it will be nice and cool. I haven’t used that function once this summer. I know, I’m bad! I think it is because when I first got the car I tried to use that function but I would set off the car alarm each time. Eventually a friend showed me another way to unlock the car that wouldn’t set off the alarm and that one time it worked. I guess I would rather get into a hot car than set the alarm off. Even as I type this, I feel silly, so my promise to you is to use the remote start function!!
Here’s to surviving the rest of the summer!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sometimes MS Makes Me Feel Older Than My Age

Since being diagnosed with MS in 2006, there are changes I have had to make to my life. For me, they have been fairly easy to make, but it did take some time to figure out what needed to happen.

Mostly the changes have had to do with my social life. These days if I am not in bed by 10pm, I pay for it the next day. I work full time as a receptionist in a periodontal office so something as simple as meeting friends for dinner after work can throw me off. On the weekends, I try to do my errands early and if I meet friends, I try to meet them for lunch or an early dinner.  Of course there are times when I make exceptions, and just plan to have the next day to recuperate, even if it means taking a day off from work. That doesn’t happen too often but there are events I don’t want to miss out on, like if there is a concert I want to go to or some other special occasion. Knowing that my body needs time to get back to “normal” has made things much easier for me.
It can be difficult explaining to friends why I can’t stay out as late as they would like, or why I can’t do anything after seeing a movie in a theater (though I have just about given that up) or go out on a day that is nearly 100 degrees! I found that this has gotten easier over the years as I have been able to discover what works best for me. I explained to friends that it wasn’t that I didn’t WANT to do these things, but I physically couldn’t handle it. Some friends were more understanding than others. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS and being one that you can’t see makes it even more difficult for people to understand. Everyone gets tired, but MS fatigue is an entirely different feeling.
MS also makes me feel older than I am when there is a lot of walking involved. About 8 months ago, I bought my first car! Before getting my car I would depend on other people for rides, mostly from my Mom (thanks Mom!) and take public transportation. Even with transportation at my finger tips, sometimes there is still a lot of walking to do to get around the city of Boston. My last relapse, over 4 years ago happened after walking too much. My legs go numb and get tingly after walking even short distances and standing tires me out. Even moving my arms in a repetitive motion makes them get numb and tingly. After resting, the symptoms go away, but it’s never fun to experience.  Of course when it is warm outside everything is worse and right now Boston is having some very hot weather -- which is why I am home typing this right now by my AC! 

So… I am thrilled to now have a car of my own! I still use the “T”, Boston’s subway service, to get into the city and have the added luxury of going wherever I need to on my own time with my car. With my 6 year diagnosis anniversary upon me, I am glad I have figured out what helps me feel as well as possible and with my new car I feel that I have gained a new found independence. I guess MS doesn’t ALWAYS make me feel older than my 32 years!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrities With MS

Recently it was announced that Jack Osbourne has Multiple Sclerosis.  I am sorry to hear that he has MS, but I am glad that he has shared his diagnosis with the world and is bringing attention to MS.

Unfortunately, the media has dramatized Jack Osbourne’s diagnosis and there is a lot of misinformation given. For example, on the cover of People magazine, Sharon Osbourne, Jack’s mother, is being quoted saying “I’m Not Going to Let My Son Die!”  As we know, people with MS have long, fulfilling lives and Jack Osbourne along with all of us, are not in danger of dying anytime soon.  It is such a shame that is what People magazine decided to focus on for their cover. However, the article in the magazine, I thought was well written and brought the right kind of awareness to MS.

When I was first diagnosed with MS in 2006 I turned to books to learn about MS and found that there were many autobiographies of celebrities with MS. I read about Terri Garr, Montel Williams and David Lander aka “Squiggy.” Nancy Davis brings awareness to MS in a different way. Every year she hosts the Race to Erase MS Gala.  A lot of celebrities attend and therefore media attention is brought to the event. The Gala recently took place and I saw clips of it on some entertainment shows. Nancy Davis raises money to help end MS and I hope that with the new attention Jack Osbourne has brought to MS, that this year there will be even more support to help end MS and that there may even be a cure in my lifetime!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tysabri - My MS Therapy

I switched my MS therapy to Tysabri in 2008.  I had been on Avonex for a year and a half and finally had found somewhat of a routine with the weekly shots.  I became more comfortable after finding out about a prescription numbing cream (see blog #2 “Miracle Cream”) and slowly had less and less side effects. After getting MRI results, my neurologist informed me that Avonex was no longer working for me.
I had a couple options, the ones I was considering were Copaxone, a daily injection or Tysabri, a monthly infusion. I was fairly certain that I would go with Tysabri, just because I found out after being diagnosed with MS that I had a needle phobia. I really couldn’t see myself getting a shot every day. Also, at this point Abe, my husband, had to give me my shots and I didn’t want to have to depend on him or anyone else for them. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give myself the injections either.

I was a little nervous about starting on Tysabri.  It had been taken off the market at one point as a handful of people had developed PML, a rare brain infection that can leave you in vegetative state or be fatal.  My neurologist informed me that I would be closely monitored. I felt comfortable with the decision to start Tysabri and scheduled my first infusion.
I have now been on Tysabri for over 4 years. I am so thankful I made this choice.  Within the last year there has been a blood test that can detect if you have been exposed to the JC Virus, which puts you at risk for PML.  The last two years I have tested negative. For me, Tysabri has worked so well. Not only is my quality of life been better because I no longer have to worry about shots (as soon as the shot was over, I started having anxiety about the next shot) but I haven’t had a relapse since my first infusion!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Miracle Cream

When I was first diagnosed with MS in 2006, I didn’t know anything about it. I learned a lot quickly through books and the internet. I was disappointed that the only therapies available were injectables.  I really didn’t like needles (I still don’t) but it was important to me to start on a therapy as soon as possible. My neurologist and I decided on Avonex, a weekly intermusclar injection. I was given a DVD to watch and was told a nurse would come to my home to teach me and Abe, my husband, how to give the shots. We bought oranges and were ready to practice with the nurse as I would be receiving my first injection. At first it didn’t seem so bad when it was the orange getting an inch and half needle piecing through its skin. When it came to my turn, however, I quickly learned I had a fear of needles. I had gotten shots at my doctor’s office before and have a few tattoos, but this was different. I already knew there was no way I could inject myself so Abe volunteered. 

The second week it was just me and Abe so we made the preparations exactly as the nurse taught us and Abe was ready to inject into my thigh. However, right when Abe would get to the “1” in the countdown I requested I would swat my hand at him that I wasn’t ready and needed more time. He told me I had to get the shot, so I might as well get it over with. It sounded reasonable, but fear over took my body. I don’t know how long it took, but eventually I had the shot. Quite a few weeks were like this. My doctor prescribed something to help me relax and I started to have a glass of wine before the shot, neither of which helped that much. So, I turned to my online support group. I learned of a prescription numbing cream called Emla. I was able to get a tube of what I started to call “Miracle Cream” before my next injection. I would put some on my thigh (I never was brave enough to use my arms in the year and a half I was on Avonex or do an injection myself) a half hour before my shot and then taped on a piece of saran wrap over the cream. I know how silly that sounds (and looks!) but it works! I also drew a circle with a pen around the numb area to indicate to Abe where to inject. The cream made all the difference in the world!

Once I started using the cream, my weekly shot became so much more bearable! I wouldn’t feel when the needle would pierce my skin which meant I wouldn’t move my leg from being startled. Moving my leg made the shot so much worse.  Also, we learned to slowly push the plunger of the medication rather than quickly to get it over with. I really had wished somehow I could have known about all these tips sooner, but I was so thankful to have the shots become easier!  I encourage anyone to look into this “Miracle Cream!”       

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Introduction

Welcome to my first blog! My name is Caroline, but my nickname is Bean (hence Bean’s Blog) and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. My 6 year anniversary is coming up in July. Usually people celebrate anniversaries, but I think I will skip the balloons and cake. (Ok, maybe I won’t skip the cake!) I certainly have been on a bumpy journey since my diagnosis, but there have been a lot of positive experiences. Through my blogs I would like to share my ongoing journey with you.

But, before we venture out, let me tell you a little more about myself. I am 32 years old and have lived in Boston my whole life.  I live with Abe, my husband (not officially, but we’ve been together over 11 years) who is ring leader in my support system. I work full time in a periodontal office as a receptionist. I have been there for 9 years and really love my job. I enjoy paperwork and interacting with patients.  I also have a slight obsession with teeth. Before working in my current office, I worked in a general dental office for 6 years, so the obsession started when I was 17! Other than teeth, I like to read, listen to music (especially Tori Amos, my other obsession) travel, watch TV, hang out with friends/Abe and of course, write! I have always had a passion for writing, whether it was a school assignment, writing in my journal or writing poems.  Recently I have found a new passion, and that is creating awareness for MS. For the last 4 years I have participated in Boston’s Walk MS by leading Team Kaliope with Abe, my sister, Annie and friends. (Kaliope is my Greek name for those of you wondering. I would have named my team with my nickname, but it was already taken! Can you believe it?!) I have been involved in projects including the 2010 National MS Society Greater New England chapter’s video for MS Awareness Day and I was on FOX’s Boston morning show in 2009 for World MS Day talking about the MyMSYoga DVD along with yogi, Baron Baptiste. MyMSYoga is a free yoga DVD made especially for people with MS of all progressions that is available through the MS Active Source website. I don’t work for them or anything, but like most people, I like things that are free! I did however start volunteering for the MS Active Source website as a mentor. I really have enjoyed being a positive influence in people’s lives. I also started two online support groups. One through the 29 Gifts website called “Givers Who Have Multiple Sclerosis.” 29 Gifts is a book written by Cami Walker who has MS and she has started a social media website where “givers” can communicate. The other group I started is on Facebook and is called “Friends Against the MonSter.” 
This leads me to why I wanted to write a blog. When I was first diagnosed, I was scared. I was 26, didn’t know what MS was and had no idea what my life would be like after hearing those 3 powerful words: “You have MS.”  I needed somewhere to turn to and couldn’t find anywhere. I asked my doctor if the hospital had a support group and was told they didn’t. I started to buy a lot of books about MS and really enjoyed reading about personal experiences people had, though I wanted real life interactions with people who have MS. So, I write this blog because I turned to the internet. When I needed someone who could empathize with me, the virtual world came through for me. I joined a few Yahoo groups and it was great being able to communicate with people who knew exactly what I was going through. It took me a while to find those groups and to realize how empowering the internet could be for a newly diagnosed person, like me. It was through those Yahoo groups that I met some wonderful friends. One of them also lives in Boston and told me about a support group at another local hospital. I still go to that monthly support group now. There are numerous friends I have made all because of MS, and for that I am thankful. But, I know there are still places that don’t have support groups or people who aren’t comfortable going to support groups but are still looking for support somewhere and they may turn to the internet. If just one person reads my blog and feels just a little bit of comfort, I am a happy Bean!  MS has led me to some really positive things in my life, friends being at the top of the list. Without MS I never would have met a whole circle of friends, some with MS and some without, that I cherish. MS has also reinforced my appreciation of life. As much as MS sucks, it is a very livable disease and I intend to live my life to the fullest!  
So, this anniversary I think I will proudly have a slice of cake! “I may have MS, but MS doesn’t have me” is quote I will never get tired of hearing. They are definitely words I will try to live by, and eat cake by!