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Helga, Nathalie and Gina all have MS, and their experiences show how differently the disease can manifest.
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.
The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.
According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.
The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.
The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.
The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.
The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.
They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.
“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”
They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.
The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.
French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.
Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.
Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.
Chris Serrano, a creative director who “does all his own stunts,” found himself in one of these abysmal situations after getting laid off.
However, Serrano quickly turned his luck around by thinking outside the box and leaning into his daredevil personality. On his LinkedIn, he posted a video of himself jumping out of a plane with a cardboard sign that read, “Open4Work.”
“I got laid off last week. So I’ll be freefalling until I find a new gig—literally. If you’re looking for an award-winning creative that works hard, takes risks, and knows how to pack a parachute, reach out. Don’t let your brand plunge to its death. Hire me instead,” he added in the caption.
Can’t say this guy isn’t clever. Or brave.
It wasn’t long before Serrano’s post caught the attention of Jack Peagam, UK- based entrepreneur and co-founder/CEO of the social app Linkup, which aims to authentically connect people based on similar hobbies and interests. Fitting that these two connected over a shared passion for extreme sports.
Peagam seemingly one-upped Serrano’s stunt—videoing himself skydiving with a cardboard sign that read. “Hey Chris, sorry 2 see you got laid off. We’ve got work 4 U. Let’s Link Up”.
In his own caption, Peagam matched Serrano’s knack for wordplay, writing, “Can't guarantee you a parachute payment, but we're ready to catch you and launch you into new heights of success. 🪂 ✈️ I'm sure you'll free-fall in love with what we're doing. I believe this is the ultimate way to extend the offer."
Because clearly these two are a match made in workplace heaven, Serrano then shared a subsequent video showing both thrill-seekers signing a new employment contract while jumping out of a plane together.
“When I lost my job, I was a bit nervous as to what could be next, but taking a leap of faith from a plane is sometimes all you can do,” Serrano shared, according to Good News Network.
That leap of faith certainly paid off. Peagam loved Serrano’s “bold” and “daring” ad, telling Good News Network it “featured everything I love about creative talent.” Serrano was also "blown away" by the support he received after posting, from folks sending positive comments to sharing the video across the platform.
While maybe not all of us can jump out of a plane to secure the job of our dreams, there is something to be said for the magic that happens when we use our imaginations and show up as our most authentic selves. Losing a job isn't fun, but it doesn't take away the special, unique qualities that we bring to the table. And when we can harness that, often opportunities seem to fall from the sky—quite literally, in this case. Bottom line: even in less-than-ideal circumstances, or perhaps especially then, a dose of optimism and ingenuity goes a long way.
Molly was found tied to a tree by the new owners of the house.
Molly, an adorable, affectionate 10-year-old pit bull, found herself tied to a tree after her owners had abandoned her.
According to The Dodo, Molly had “always been a loyal dog, but, unfortunately, her first family couldn’t reciprocate that same love back,” and so when the house was sold, neither Molly nor the family’s cat was chosen to move with them. While the cat was allowed to free roam outside, all Molly could do was sit and wait. Alone.
Luckily, the young couple that bought the house agreed to take the animals in as part of their closing agreement, and as soon as the papers were signed, they rushed over to check in.
In a TikTok video, April Parker, the new homeowner, walks up to Molly, who is visibly crestfallen with teary eyes. But as soon as Parker begins cooing, “Baby girl…you’re gonna get a new home,” the pitty instantly perks up—all smiles and tail wagging.
“We are going to make her life so good,” Parker wrote in the video’s caption. “She will never be left all alone tied to a tree.”
The video has been seen upwards of 4 million times. Countless people commented on how enraging it was to see a dog treated so carelessly.
“I’ve had my dog since she was 7 weeks old. She just turned 10 a few days ago. I literally cannot imagine doing this,” one person wrote.”
Another added: “The tears in her eyes…she doesn’t understand why they could just leave her, it breaks my heart. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to be pet owners.”
Subsequent videos show Parker freeing Molly from her leash and introducing the sweet pup to her husband, with whom she was instantly smitten. It’s clear that this doggo was both relieved and elated to be taken in by her new family.
Since being rescued, Molly has accompanied her new mom and dad everywhere.
“She’s sticking to our side,” Parker wrote. “She won’t stop following us around. It’s so sweet.”
Parker has created an entire TikTok channel documenting her newfound pet’s journey, aptly named “Molly’s New Life,” showing Molly enjoying warm baths, plenty of treats, cuddles…all the finer things in life.
But what Molly seems to enjoy most of all is car rides:
It seems that Molly has gotten the safe, loving home she’s deserved all along.
We know that animal abandonment is fairly common. According to The Zebra, almost 4 million dogs are either given up to shelters or abandoned each year. And still, it’s really hard to fathom how humans can treat such innocent creatures with such blatant disregard when they provide so much pure joy.
Thankfully, there are folks out there like the Parkers who know that taking care of animals like Molly is one of life’s most precious offerings.
Stay up-to-date with the rest of Molly’s journey by following her on TikTok.
Taylor Wolfe expresses the stress that moms with toddlers feel on vacation.
Taking young children on a family vacation seems like a good idea. You leave the house, soak up some new scenery, spend time with your significant other, and most importantly, make memories. Lots and lots of unforgettable memories.
But as the old saying goes, no matter where you go, there you are. Just because you left the house doesn’t mean your children magically learn how to be flexible or sleep in new conditions. They don’t suddenly learn how to wait for the appropriate time to soil their diapers or become curious about new types of food.
You’re still parenting, but this time it’s at a hotel.
On one side, the mom is trying her best to be happy, live in the moment and make memories. Lots and lots of memories. However, on the other side, the trials and tribulations of having a toddler seem to get worse while away from home.
Am I grateful we can take vacations? 💯 Yes. But can I admit they’re not always palm trees and sunshine? Also yes. 🙃 but MEMORIES! #momsoftiktok #foryoupage #momtiktok #vacation
“I’m having so much fun. I’m so glad we did this. Traveling with a toddler is hard, but it’s worth it,” she begins in her parody video.
Smash cut to her looking super stressed out, staring down at her child, who won’t fall asleep. “She’s not down yet. That’s why I’m sitting here. It’s not dark enough!” she yells.
Then we're back to the happy mom who’s hopeful that her daughter will have a good day at the resort because she had a good nap, so “It’s all good.”
Smash cut to her sitting over her young daughter, “I don’t know why we did this!”
Throughout the rest of the vacation, Taylor finds ways to rationalize her decision to leave the house with a toddler. “There's seasons of life and this is a hard one. It's short, but it's worth it."
The video struck a chord with a lot of the people in the comments section on Instagram who have lived through the same stressful situation and tried to keep a positive attitude.
“This is why I take a lot of nice photos of my kids on vacation so I can falsely remember that I enjoyed every second of it,” Cartwright wrote.
“That is not a vacation. That is ‘away from home parenting,'” Bestlifeorbust added.
“And then sweardagawd in six months your memories will come up on your phone and you will forget any ounce of stress you had and start planning another adventure. It’s a weird universe trick,” Shauna_Newman wrote.
Shauna may be right. Some studies show that even though raising young kids is particularly stressful, as we move on, we tend to forget the struggles and cherish the good times.
An article by Stephanie H. Murray published in The Atlantic noted that sociologist Daniel Gilbert likens the stresses of raising a toddler to watching a baseball game that remains scoreless into the ninth inning. “Fans remember the thrilling moments of the game-winning home run and not much else,” the article reads.
A Good Samaritan thwarts an attempted bank robbery.
A story out of Woodland, California, a town outside of Sacramento, shows that sometimes, a little empathy can turn a potentially violent situation into a peaceful outcome. According to the Woodland Police Department, it all unfolded at a Bank of the West on Monday, May 22, at 11:00 a.m.
Michael Armus Sr., 69, was waiting in line when he noticed a man slip a teller a note. The tellers looked concerned, and the man who slipped the note had his shirt pulled over the bottom of his face. The man claimed that he had a gun. It was a robbery.
Then Armus noticed something familiar about the man. It was his former neighbor, Eduardo Plasencia, 43, who was also his daughter’s friend.
“I seen that the way he was talking, he was getting irritated. He said, ‘I don’t want to hurt anybody,’” Armus said, according to NBC 15.
Armus noticed that Plasencia sounded troubled. So, instead of attempting to disarm him and stop the robbery, he asked him some questions.
“He seemed to be depressed the way he was talking, so… I said, ‘What’s wrong? You don’t have a job?’ He said, ‘There’s nothing in this town for me. I just want to go to prison,’” Armus said.
"I felt compassion for the man. What could have happened to this guy to make him want to go in there and just throw his life away?” he told ABC 7 Chicago.
Armus then asked if they could step outside.
“So, I took him outside, and I give the man a hug right here at the doors. He started crying,” Armus said. “Then, I stepped away from him, and swoop, here come all the cops–no sirens, just lights everywhere, rifles out, ‘Get on the ground!’”
The Woodland Police Department later applauded Armus, saying he calmed the would-be robber down and encouraged him not to commit the crime.
“His words of wisdom worked and Plasencia changed his mind and left the bank,” the police department wrote on Facebook. The police later told ABC that Armus is a "Good Samaritan who delivered the right message that made a difference."
Who knows what would have happened if Plasencia hadn't left the bank with Armus and been arrested? It’s pretty remarkable that in a situation fraught with so much tension and danger, Armus had the presence of mind to determine the robber’s emotional state and coax him out of the situation.
He also had the compassion to see him as more than just a criminal, but a person who had fallen on hard times and needed some serious help.
"It was meant for me to be here," Armus told ABC News.
Plasencia was booked at Yolo County for attempted robbery. When police apprehended him, he wasn’t armed, as he had told the bank tellers.
“Thank you to the very brave Good Samaritan who delivered the right message that made a difference,” the police department wrote on Facebook.
Armus says that he may visit Plasencia in jail to see how he's holding up.
“Love overcomes all things. People don’t realize that. Try to be kind to somebody. It makes a difference,” he said.
Guptil wasn’t the only one totally won over by the adorable exchange. Her video soon went mega-viral with over 21 million views and 4 million likes. Besides fawning over just how stinking cute he was, people surmised that this wasn’t the raccoon’s first time making a doughnut run.
“There’s no way this isn’t a daily thing for the raccoon and the workers lol that was far too casual,” wrote another TikTok commenter. “I love it!”
Another added, “That’s his spot. He knows he’s getting one.”
Even Guptil wrote that “he must be a regular.”
Others joked that the raccoon gave Dunkin’ some free advertising.
“If they had a buy the raccoon's daily donut option I would 100% do that,” one person quipped.
"Dunkin' has to use this for a commercial!” wrote another.
Raccoons are often misunderstood as devious, dirty, disease-carrying pests. But maybe the truth is, raccoons are just like us—warm-blooded mammals doing their best to get by, who need a sugar rush every once in a while.