Tag Archives: MS hug

Got MS? Help Yourself!

digmannJen Digmann is my guest blogger today. Jen and her husband both have MS and use their experiences to help empower others. Check out their website here.  

When I decided to marry Dan, I knew there would be a few certainties in my future. I knew I would be hearing and seeing a lot from Mr. Bruce Springsteen. Likewise for baseball games. Both which I’ve done gladly.

Another thing I knew was I would become the co-leader of Dan’s MS self-help group. I gladly have done that as well After all, I also am living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Something I always tell members of our group is that I firmly believe the more you know about this unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, the better you are able to live with it.

I am lucky that information about MS is pretty easy to obtain. However, after living with the disease for nearly 17 years, I’ve realized that finding credible, accurate information may take a little more work. With more than 400,000 Americans also having MS, you are bound to hear the occasional, “Yeah, my aunt (or neighbor, coworker, or other relative) also has that and she started taking cold pickle juice baths and only eats orange-colored food, and she’s cured!”

Well-meaning advice, but not exactly the most reliable resource.

A person with MS can talk with his or her neurologist, check out trustworthy websites like nmss.org or healthline.com, or look into self-help groups.

Being the co-leader of one such group for the past eight years has been both a privilege and an awesome way to meet others who understand what I’m living with and to also constantly learn about MS. And sometimes I may think Dan and I know most everything about the disease, but then I realize there is still a lot we can learn.

As the meeting was ending, I quipped something about my trigeminal neuralgia, and sure enough Sherri chimed in how miserable that condition is. I never knew she was dealing with this too! It almost felt like a put-on-another-pot-of-coffee-we’re-not-done-yet kind of moment. Don’t you love meetings like that?

She and I were talking about this obscure symptom, and our group’s general consensus was: MS is strange like that. This statement led Dan to talk about the tight banded feeling he was experiencing in his midsection. “Yep, that sure sounds like the MS Hug to me,” Dawn and Rhoda enthusiastically agreed. Really, we needed that coffee.

Next thing you know, we were hurried out of our meeting space because the attendees for the next event were there.

As we gathered up our belongings, we chuckled about the great friendships we’ve made because of Multiple Sclerosis. And I couldn’t help but smile a little more as I reflected on how in eight years I’ve become a baseball watching Springsteen fan who looks forward to co-leading a great meeting on the second Saturday of every month.

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Why Is MS So Difficult To Describe?

MS CartoonAs if going through the MS diagnostic process isn’t difficult enough, trying to describe MS symptoms to the uninitiated is even harder.

Take the MS hug. Cute name, excruciatingly painful. The first time this happened to me, I was in the office.

The pain came out of the blue, and as I held my ribs in breathless agony, my colleague politely asked why I was rocking in my chair, making funny gasping noises. After I’d told her it felt like a boa constrictor had wrapped itself round my body, she gave me a curious look and continued typing.

Or the exotically named L’hermitte’s sign. Electric shocks in the neck? Maybe it’s all in my head. Uhthoff’s Phenomenon? Try explaining the torture of frying from the inside out, the complete inability to do anything in the heat. The sadness as you watch the world go by from your window, life happening elsewhere, make-up sliding slowly southwards. Or the tragic look I got from my son the other day when he came home from school to find me with a bag of frozen peas balanced on my head.

Tell anyone else you’re heat intolerant (and it’s even got a fancy name) and you’ll get a barrage of ‘Oooooh, me too! Can’t stand the heat!’ I bore myself silly trying to make them understand it’s not just a case of sitting in the shade with a sunhat on, sipping an icy-cold Pimm’s. It keeps you locked in the house, limbs trembling, industrial-sized fan on full blast. With our current heatwave, even my head is trembling so much I look like a nodding dog. Or a weeble-wobble.

What about neuropathic pain? The constant buzzing, tingling, throbbing, burning in my feet and legs. It’s like having mobile phones strapped to my feet, set to vibrate, with a bit of pincushion-y pain mixed in. Or there’s other days when I can’t feel my feet at all.

But the biggie, as we all know, is the teeth-gnashing frustration of describing MS fatigue. No matter how you explain it to other people, there will always, always be someone who says, ‘Oh, I get tired too. I know exactly what you mean.’ Um, no, you don’t. Now, please run into my fist. I’m too tired to punch you.

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