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DIFFICULT DIAGNOSIS: Raising MS Awareness

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable and often disabling disease. But, research is moving us closer to a world free of MS.

A moment of quiet is rare for Melissa Shelabarger. She says, “I have twin daughters who are 5 and a half. And, my boyfriend and I live together, and he has three daughters as well.”

The young mother is also studying to be an accountant. She says, “I’m actually job hunting right now.”

But, once a month she carves out time for something that helps her live her life. She says, “I’m on a medication called Tysabri. It’s an IV medication. I get it every four weeks. It takes about an hour to get the medication.”

The medication manages her multiple sclerosis. Doctors diagnosed her with MS four years ago when she was just 24 years old. She says, “I woke up one morning, and I couldn’t see straight. It felt like my eyes were crossed, but they looked perfectly fine.” She goes on to say, “There were some days I’d wake up and I couldn’t feel my legs. I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I’d be crying because I was in pain.”

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. Shelabarger says, “MS looks different for everyone.”

Shelabarger is the ambassador for the Walk MS later this month, starting at the Iowa capitol. It’s one of 34 events this spring in the upper Midwest. The goal is to raise $2 million to help move closer to a world free of MS. Dr. Bruce Hughes with the Ruan Multiple Sclerosis Center says, “In the last 3 years, there have been some breakthroughs and some promising therapies.”

Dr. Hughes says there are currently 10 FDA approved therapies for MS. Dr. Hughes says, “Even as recently as last month, we’ve had another FDA approved agent. And, this agent is an oral medication. The last 3 to come out have been oral medications. Prior to that, it was only injectable drug therapy, so shots or IV, so now we have pills available too.”

Shelabarger is thankful she found a therapy that works for her. She says, “I’m very blessed and fortunate to be able to live life like normal.”

The Walk MS is Saturday, May 18th. It starts at the state capitol building. Check in is at 8 a.m. The walk starts at 10. Click here to find more information.

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