Three women, three MS journeys: How multiple sclerosis looks different for everyone
Gina, Nathalie and Helga share their reactions to being diagnosed with MS and how they stay informed and positive in the face of ever-changing symptoms.
It’s been 155 years since neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot gave the first lecture on a mysterious progressive illness he called “multiple sclerosis.” Since then, we’ve learned a lot. We know MS causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue, including damaging the brain and spinal cord. Resulting symptoms can be debilitating and include fatigue, blurred vision, memory problems and weakness. Huge advancements in our understanding of MS and its underlying causes, as well as treatment advances, have been made in the past few decades, but MS remains a complex and unpredictable reality for the 2.8 million+ people diagnosed around the world.
Ironically, the only real constant for people living with MS is change. There’s no set pattern or standard progression of the disease, so each person’s experience is unique. Some people with MS have mild symptoms that worsen slowly but sometimes improve, while others can have severe symptoms that drastically alter their daily lives.
All people with MS share some things in common, however, such as the need to stay informed on the ever-evolving research, find various lines of support and try to remain hopeful as they continue living with the disease.
To better understand what navigating life with MS really looks like, three women shared their MS stories with us. Their journeys demonstrate how MS can look different for different people and interestingly, how the language used to talk about the disease can greatly impact how people understand their realities.
Gina loves riding her horse, Benita.Courtesy of Sanofi
Gina—Hamburg, Germany (diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis in 2017)
When her youngest son was 4 months old, Gina started having problems with her eye. She’d soon learn she was experiencing optic neuritis—her first symptom of MS.
“Immediately after the diagnosis, I looked up facts on MS because I didn’t know anything about it,” Gina says. “And as soon as I knew what could really happen with this disease, I actually got scared.”
As her family’s primary income provider, she worried about how MS would impact her ability to work as a writer and editor. Her family was afraid she was going to end up in a wheelchair. However, for now, Gina’s MS is managed well enough that she still works full-time and is able to be active.
“When I tell somebody that I have MS, they often don't believe me the first time because I don't fulfill any stereotypes,” she says.
Overwhelmed by negative perspectives on living with MS, Gina sought support in the online MS community, which she found to be much more positive.
“I think it’s important to use as many positive words as you can when talking about MS.” It’s important to be realistic while also conveying hope, she says. “MS is an insidious disease that can cause many bad symptoms…that can be frightening, and you can't gloss over it, either.”
To give back to the online community that helped her so much, Gina started a blog to share her story and help others trying to learn about their diagnosis.
Though she deals with fatigue and cognitive dysfunction sometimes, Gina stays active swimming, biking, riding horses and playing with her sons, who are now 11 and 6.
Cognitive dysfunction is common in MS, with over half of people affected. It can impact memory, attention, planning, and word-finding. As with many aspects of MS, some people experience mild changes, while others face more challenges.
Gina says that while there’s still a lot of education about MS needed, she feels positive about the future of MS because there’s so much research being done.
Nathalie is an award-winning rower with multiple international titles.Courtesy of Sanofi
Nathalie — Pennes Mirabeau, France (diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2002)
Nathalie was a teenager and a competitive athlete when she noticed her first symptoms of MS, but it would take four years of “limbo” before she was diagnosed.
“Ultimately, the diagnosis was more of a relief, than a shock,” she says. “Because when you have signs and you don’t know why, it’s worse than knowing, in the end, what you have.”
However, learning more about the disease—and the realities of disease progression—scared her.
“That glimpse of the future was direct and traumatic,” she says. Her neurologist explained that the disease evolves differently for everyone, and her situation might end up being serious or very mild. So, she decided to stop comparing herself to others with MS.
She said to herself, “We’ll see what happens, and you’ll manage it bit by bit.”
By 2005, Nathalie’s MS had progressed to the point of needing a wheelchair. However, that has not dampened her competitive spirit.
Nathalie began her international rowing career in 2009 and has won multiple world titles, including two Paralympic medals—silver in London and bronze in Tokyo. Now, at 42, she still trains 11 times a week. Fatigue can be a problem, and sometimes hard workouts leave her with muscle stiffness and shaking, but she credits her ongoing sports career for helping her feel in tune with her body’s signals.
“Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my body, letting my body guide when I need to stop and take breaks,” she says.
Nathalie explains that she used to only look backwards because of the initial shock of her diagnosis. In time, she stopped thinking about what she couldn’t do anymore and focused on her future. She now lives in the following mindset: “Even when doors close, don’t miss out on those that open.” Instead of focusing on what she can’t do, she focuses on the opportunities she still has. Right now, this includes her training for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, where she will compete for another rowing medal.
“I only go forward,” she says. “Well, I try, anyway…It’s easy to say, it’s not always easy to do. But that’s what I try to do.”
Helga's Great Dane has become a helpful and beloved companion.Courtesy of Sanofi
Helga—Johannesburg, South Africa (diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis in 2010)
When Helga first started having balance issues and numbness in her feet, she chalked it up to her training as a runner. But when the numbness moved to her face, she knew something was wrong. She never guessed it was MS.
“When I was diagnosed, I felt completely overwhelmed and clueless,” Helga says. “I felt that I had nowhere near enough information. I did not know anything about the disease…I had no idea that it was going to be a process of continually monitoring and adjusting your lifestyle.”
In the beginning, Helga’s symptoms developed slowly, and she didn’t appear ill to others. She was even able to run for a few years after her diagnosis, but she couldn’t do marathons anymore, and she began to fall frequently due to balance issues and right-foot dragging. Then her cognition issues became more problematic, especially in her job as a trainer in a printing company.
“My executive function, decision-making and short-term memory were affected to the point that I was eventually medically unfit for work,” she says. She stopped working in 2017.
However, she didn’t stop living life. Even though she could no longer run, she continued to swim competitively. She got a Great Dane puppy and trained him as a service dog to help her walk. She also serves as vice chair of the patient support organization Multiple Sclerosis South Africa, and she advises others who have been diagnosed to join a patient advocacy group as soon as possible to get reliable information and meet others with MS.
Helga says she is “hopeful” about the future of MS. “I must say that I am so grateful that we have all the new medications available, because my life would not be the same if it wasn't for that,” she adds.
Part of how she manages her MS is by looking at the positives.
“If I could tell the world one thing about MS, it would be that MS is an incurable disease of the nervous system, but it's also the greatest teacher of valuing your health, family, friends, and managing change in your life,” she says. “My life is diversified in a way that I never, ever thought it would, and MS has been honestly the greatest teacher.”
Each MS journey is unique – with each person impacted experiencing different struggles, successes, and feelings as they manage this unpredictable disease. But the common thread is clear – there is a critical need for information, support, and hope. We are proud to participate in World MS Day and share these incredible stories of living life while living with MS. To learn more about MS, go to https://www.sanofi.com/why-words-really-matter-when-it-comes-to-multiple-sclerosis.
This article was sponsored by Sanofi. Participants were compensated when applicable.
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'Why women leave’: Wife who 'does everything' shares why she left her husband who did nothing
This is a common story in many households.
There are a few big reasons why 70% of divorces in the United States among heterosexual couples are filed by women. Women have more economic opportunities than in decades past and are better positioned to care for themselves and their children without a husband’s income.
Another big reason is that even though the world has become much more egalitarian than in the past, women still bear the brunt of most of the emotional labor in the home. Gilza Fort-Martinez, a Florida, US-based licensed couples’ therapist, told the BBC that men are socialized to have lower emotional intelligence than women, leaving their wives to do most of the emotional labor.
Secondly, studies show that women still do most of the domestic work in the home, so many are pulling double duty for their households.
A TikTokker with two children (@thesoontobeexwife) shared why she decided to leave her husband of two decades and her story recounts a common theme: She did all the work and her husband did little but complain.
The video, entitled “Why women leave,” has received over 2 million views.
Y’all I laughed when I realized he truly does treat me better now then when he was trying to be in a marriage with me. How is this better?? How did I ever think before was ok?? #toxicrelationship #divorce #mentalloadofmotherhood #divorcetok #divorceisanoption #chooseyou #mentalhealth #mentalload #fyp #mentalload #emotionallabor
“So for the men out there who watch this, which frankly I kind of hope there aren’t any, you have an idea maybe what not to do,” she starts the video. “Yesterday, I go to work all day, go pick up one kid from school, go grocery shopping, go pick up the other kid from school, come home. Kids need a snack–make the snack. Kids want to play outside – we play outside.”
Her husband then comes home after attending a volunteer program, which she didn’t want him to join, and the self-centeredness begins. “So he gets home, he eats the entire carton of blueberries I just purchased for the children’s lunch and asks me what’s for dinner. I tell him I don’t know because the kids had a late snack and they’re not hungry yet,” she says in the video.
She then explains how the last time he cooked, which was a rare event, he nearly punched a hole in the wall because he forgot an ingredient. Their previous home had multiple holes in the walls. Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and host of the Power of Different podcast, says that when punch walls it’s a sign that they haven’t “learned to deal with anger in a reasonable way.”
“Anyway, finally one kid is hungry,” the TikTokker continues. “So I offered to make pancakes because they’re quick and easy and it’s late. He sees the pancake batter and sees that there’s wheat flour in it and starts complaining. Says he won’t eat them. Now I am a grown adult making pancakes for my children who I am trying to feed nutritionally balanced meals. So yes, there’s wheat flour in the pancake mix.”
Then her husband says he’s not doing the dishes because he didn’t eat any pancakes. “Friends, the only thing this man does around this house is dishes occasionally. If I cook, he usually does the dishes. I cook most nights. But here’s the thing. That’s all he does. I do everything else. Everything. Everything.”
She then listed all of the household duties she handles.
“I cook, I clean the bathrooms, I make the lunches, I make the breakfasts, I mow the lawn, I do kids’ bedtime. I literally do everything and he does dishes once a day, maybe,” she says.
I HAVE OFFICIALLY FILED FOR DIVORCE 🎉 #divorce #divorcetok #toxicrelationship #divorceisanoption #fyp #mentalhealth #chooseyou #iamenough #iwillnotbeafraid #mentalloadofmotherhood #emotionallabor
The video received over 8700 comments and most of them were words of support for the TikTokker who would go on to file for divorce from her husband.
"The amount of women I’ve heard say that their male partners are only teaching how to be completely independent of them, theirs going to be so many lonely men out there," Gwen wrote. "I was married to someone just like this for over 35 years. You will be so happy when you get away from him," BeckyButters wrote.
"The way you will no longer be walking on eggshells in your own home is an amazing feeling. You got this!" Barf Simpson added.
Don't let the boycotts bother you. A staggering number of Americans now support LGBTQ rights.
Like, a lot.
There have been numerous high-profile controversies surrounding LGBTQ rights recently that make it appear as though there has been a considerable backlash in acceptance of the LGBTQ community among Americans.
There’s the Bud Light backlash after the popular beer brand used trans activist Dylan Mulvaney as a spokesperson. There was an uproar after the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on LGBTQ Pride Night. There has also been an ongoing controversy surrounding Target selling LGBTQ-friendly merchandise.
Clearly, if people are getting riled up over the normalization of LGBTQ culture throughout America, we must be amid a considerable backlash, right? In reality, the truth is the exact opposite.
A new poll by GLAAD has found that non-LGBTQ Americans are more accepting of the LGBTQ community than ever and want them to be treated like everyone else. So, even though there is a loud contingent of political activists pushing back against LGBTQ progress, they don’t seem to significantly impact the growing movement toward acceptance.
Simply put, the opposition to LGBTQ people may be loud, but it’s only getting smaller.
\u201cGLAAD Report Finds 75% of Non-LGBTQ Adults Are Comfortable Seeing Queer People in Ads @PinkMediaWorld - A new @GLAAD study found that less than a third of non-LGBT adults personally know a transgender person.\nhttps://t.co/8zCzzKuvuB\u201d— LGBTQ+ Brand Voice (@LGBTQ+ Brand Voice) 1685710714
The survey of over 25,000 non-LGBTQ Americans found three encouraging facts:
- A 96% supermajority of non-LGBTQ Americans agree that school should be a safe and accepting place for all youth.
- A 91% supermajority of non-LGBTQ Americans agree that LGBTQ people should have the freedom to live their lives and not be discriminated against.
- An 84% supermajority of non-LGBTQ Americans support equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
The study also found that despite outrage over Dylan Mulvaney appearing in a Bud Light promotion, the vast majority of Americans are okay with seeing LGBTQ people and families represented in the media.
\u201c"They want to make Pride toxic": GLAAD's Sarah Kate Ellis on how attacks against stores that carry Pride merchandise contradict a study that found the majority of Americans are comfortable seeing LGBTQ people in ads. https://t.co/KXSDBNb9nk\u201d— MSNBC (@MSNBC) 1685651143
This corresponds with the fact that on the 2021 to 2022 TV season nearly 12% of all regular characters on prime-time television were LGBTQ. That’s a sea change over the 2005 to 2006 report that found only 2% of all characters were LGBTQ.
- 75% of non-LGBTQ adults feel comfortable seeing LGBTQ people in advertisements.
- 73% of non-LGBTQ adults report feeling comfortable seeing LGBTQ characters included in TV shows or movies.
- 68% of non-LGBTQ adults feel comfortable seeing an LGBTQ family with children included in an advertisement.
The strange state of affairs in America is that even though an increasing number of Americans want LGBTQ people to have equal rights, there has been a staggering number of new laws aimed at disenfranchising them that have been proposed over the past three years.
GLAAD estimates that over 500-plus anti-LGBTQ laws have been proposed in 2023 alone.
“Support for LGBTQ equality has reached an all-time high, but allyship must turn into action,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “Media, content creators, and corporate leaders need to lead and respond to hate with undeterred support for the LGBTQ community, including LGBTQ employees, shareholders and consumers. Allyship is not easy, but when values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are tested, we must defend them unequivocally."
Guy says he missed out on love as a teen because his dog's name was too embarrassing
Why did his parents do that to him?
If you’re having trouble meeting a romantic partner, research shows you could improve your chances by getting a dog. A 2020 YouGov study found that 50% of Americans would be more willing to date someone if they had a dog, while only 9% would be less willing to do so.
Women are more interested in meeting someone with a dog (54%) compared to 46% of men.
People are more attracted to dog lovers for a pretty simple reason. They assume that those who have dogs are better at having long-term relationships. “People might infer that a dog-walking man knows how to form lasting attachments, has the resources to care for someone else (dog ownership is expensive!), and is reliable enough to do the daily work involved with dog ownership,” Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today.
A Reddit user with an unprintable name posted a story for the ages that has resurfaced because of the epic troll move his dad pulled. He secretly renamed his dog, and the son found out at the most inopportune time.
An adorable Golden Retriever puppy
When he was 19, the Reddit user's parents gave him an adorable Golden Retriever puppy for Christmas. Because of the spirit of the season, he named her “Holly.” The Redditor couldn’t take the dog home immediately, so it stayed with his parents for a few weeks while he got situated.
Six months later, when he took Holly in for a check-up, he learned that while she was living with his parents, his father registered her under another name with the American Kennel Club and the local veterinarian. While he waited for his dog to be called to the vet, a young woman caught his attention.
“So I'm sitting in the waiting room and a cute girl around my age comes in with a beautiful GSD [German Shepherd] pup and sits by me,” the man recounted. “Our pups start playing together so we inevitably talk. We're hitting it off, talking about the joys and downs of puppy ownership. Then the receptionist steps up and calls: 'Mizz Princess Hollywood?'"
Blindsided by the name, the guy felt humiliated. The name of his potential paramour’s dog didn’t make things any easier.
"Now I'm already embarrassed, but it didn't help that while I was still standing up there, they call out ‘Bowser’ (or something else fairly masculine), and the cute girl stands up with her pup,” the Redditor wrote. “I just walked into the exam room red-faced and never saw her again.”
Instead of feeling embarrassed, a Reddit user named Sniperstar said the dog owner should have used the situation to his advantage. “[You] Should have got up said, ‘It's a long story, but I'd love to tell you about it over coffee after this,’" Sniperstar suggested.
Sniperstar isn’t wrong in their suggestion. Studies show that, according to heterosexual women, a sense of humor is one of the most attractive qualities a man can have. But who knows if even a well-timed joke can overcome the cringe of having a dog named Mizz Princess Hollywood?
A diagnosed sociopath lets people ask him anything, shutting down myths about the disorder
He was diagnosed at 21 and says the diagnosis was a relief.
The term "sociopath" is something that people don't often understand. The public's exposure to what a sociopath is generally comes from the media depictions, usually in some psychological thriller that portrays the villain as a manipulative, out-of-control killer. They slap the sociopath label on them either in the background information or through inference.
But what is a sociopath? For starters, it's not actually called "sociopath," though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The correct diagnosis is "antisocial personality disorder," and the Mayo Clinic defines it as, "a mental health condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others." While it's true that people who have this specific type of personality disorder often engage in criminal behavior, that doesn't mean they are going to be unpredictably violent.
Greg, a man who says he was diagnosed with sociopathy around the age of 21, sat down to answer people's questions about the disorder.
When describing what "sociopath" means to him, Greg said that it's someone who has no regard for the safety of themselves or others, impulsive, reckless and "basically like a child." In the sort of rapid-fire setup where people take turns sitting behind a curtain to ask their burning questions, the man appeared relaxed. Surprisingly, he revealed that he was relieved by his diagnosis.
"I had felt out of control and didn't understand why I was doing what I was doing for a long time, so knowing that there was an actual reason behind why I was doing these things, it was really kind of freeing in a way."
One person asked what people most often misunderstand about being a sociopath, and the answer is insightful and informative for people who may be curious.
"Personally, I think that the stereotype is that they're incredibly violent and malicious just to be mean, just for its own sake. At least for me, that's not how it presents," he continued. "More often than not people with antisocial personality disorder, or sociopaths, they're just irresponsible, impulsive people that can lead to being a little aggressive and irritable. But the myth that we're violent and out-of-control monsters is just blown way out of proportion."
He speaks about seeing all relationships as transactional and his lack of empathy and guilt, which he admits has caused relationship issues in the past. The entire interview is fascinating, and you can visibly see the participants' body language relax as they start to have a better understanding of the person on the other side of the curtain. Hopefully, opening up conversations like this will decrease the stigma around certain mental illnesses.
Man cries in his car while listening to 'Iris' by the Goo Goo Dolls, and people can't help but relate
Crying in the car is healing.
Though content creator Oliver Mills is no stranger to serenading viewers on his TikTok channel with his charming, laid-back "car-aoke" videos, he recently hit listeners right in the feels as he began unabashedly shedding tears while singing the iconic 90’s rock song (slash ultimate sad anthem) “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls.
In the caption of the raw, vulnerable video, Mills wrote, “Crying in the car is healing,” and included hashtags like #mentalhealthawareness, #mentalhealthmatters, and #mensmentalhealth.The song was written by John Rzeznik for the movie “City Of Angels'' to convey the immortal protagonist’s willingness to give up eternal life for love. But despite the specific storyline, it touches on something universal—that aching feeling of yearning for love. Add to that Rzeznik’s passionate, wistful vocals, and oof, you’ve got the perfect song for the bittersweet beauty of love at all its stages. Really, it’s got something for everyone.
This was made all too clear as more and more people commented on Mill’s video sharing how the song had a similar effect on them.
“Glad we all cry to this song,” one person shared.“This is such a good cry song. I approve,” another added. And still another shared that the song got them through their “darkest moments.” Hopefully we all have a song like that.
@olivermillsn Crying in the car is healing #mentalhealth#mentalhealthmatters#therapy#mentalhealthawareness#mensmentalhealth#healing♬ original sound - Oliver Mills
At the very least, folks could agree that there was something especially soothing about crying in the car.
“Crying in the car alone at night hits different,” the top comment read.
One person even revealed that “I cry in my car everyday after work to just decompress.” Relatable.
And of course, people applauded Mills for being so open with his feelings.
“I love that the lyric was ‘I don’t want the world to see me’ yet you’re being so vulnerable here. Thanks for sharing.”
There’s really nothing like full-on ugly crying in your car as you sing your heart out to a tune that perfectly encapsulates what you're feeling. Tear-evoking music has a magical way of helping us viscerally connect with hard-to-process emotions. In particular, the emotions of sadness and awe, as discovered in a 2018 study from the University of North Carolina.
And the power of music is only magnified when we find ourselves driving alone, safe inside a mobile exoskeleton while out in the open—both protected and vulnerable at the same time. It’s honestly the perfect recipe for cathartic emotional release.
We all need to let our guard down every once in a while. Thank goodness healing is sometimes only a long commute and a good song away.
Mom discovered her daughter had secret worms in her pockets and people can’t stop laughing
“Did I see a worm in your pocket?!”
Kids will absolutely test all parts of your personality. Not out of malicious intent, but simply because kids are innocent and don't don't understand unspoken social rules, especially when they're very little. One of those seemingly common sense unspoken social rules is that you don't go to the nail salon with worms in your pockets.
Scratch that, you don't walk around with worms in your pocket, period. That is unless you're on a fishing boat and you're in charge of bait and you run out of room in the canister filled with worms. I mean, there are a lot of things that would have to come into play to make having worms in your pocket socially acceptable. But kids don't know that, and one little girl, Kylee Grace, gave her mom a shock after they left the nail salon one day.
In the video posted to TikTok, which has now gone mega-viral with over 11.5 million views, Kylee and her mom are walking down the sidewalk after getting their nails done. Jenae, the little girl's mom, asks her daughter if she has a worm in her pocket. Then things quickly get hilariously weird.
Kylee stops and looks like she doesn't want to answer her mom's question before quietly saying, "Yeah." You guys, she has a worm in her pocket.
"Why do you have a worm in your pocket?" Jenae rightfully asks.
"I don't know," Kylee says.
After her mom tells her to get the worm out of her pocket, the girl holds up the earthworm and it starts moving, which again, shocks Jenae. Because how is it still alive after spending who knows how long in the pocket of a little kid? The poor little confused worm is finally released back into the wild with fresh air, but Mom's intuition kicks in, so she asks if Kylee has any more worms.
The little girl pulls out two handfuls of live earthworms that are likely thankful that Kylee was caught so they could get back to living their best life in someone's yard. People in the comments thought the entire situation was hilarious and some even suggested that she get a worm farm.
"I was expecting one from each pocket she grabbed the whole family," one commenter wrote.
"Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeee get her a worm farm she deserves it man," someone said.
"Definitely a future biologist!!! Mom get her a small aquarium fill it with soil, let her put her worms in it and WATCH her shine" another wrote.
"How she got 37 worms in her pocket but just pulled out 1. I cried," someone commented.
#kidsoftictok #fearfactor #birthdaybehavior #wormszone
Some of the commenters had a very important question, where did she get all of those worms? Turns out, she stuffed them in her pockets at daycare. Look, Kylee and her worms are going places. The little girl never really admitted why she had the worms outside of her liking them, but there had to be a plan. Maybe Jenae will take some of the commenters up on their advice and buy her a worm farm to encourage her love for worms. All I know is, laundry day is going to be a weird, slimy game of Russian roulette.