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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Sorry, Labradors. After 31 years, America has a new favorite dog.
The American Kennel Club has crowned a new favorite.
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.
The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.
The French Bulldog's complicated past took them from brothels (yes) to royals.— American Kennel Club (@akcdoglovers) March 16, 2023
Listen to their full history and more in the Uniquely Urban podcast episode of Down & Back: https://t.co/Jx2jPNCVMbpic.twitter.com/wBQd9fsRlt
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.
An adorable French Bulldog
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.
1 French Bulldogs
2 Labrador Retrievers
3 Golden Retrievers
4 German Shepherd Dogs
10 German Shorthaired Pointers
This article originally appeared on 03.17.23
Melissa McCarthy describes Halle Bailey’s endearing habit on ‘The Little Mermaid’ set
Even the guy holding the boom mic said it was his “favorite thing.”
Music can truly feel like magic sometimes, especially when someone has the voice of an angel—or perhaps a wistful, land-loving mermaid.
Reviews of Halle Bailey's performance in Disney's new live-action "The Little Mermaid" have been overwhelmingly positive, which isn't too surprising considering her vocal talents. But according to co-start Melissa McCarthy, who plays the wicked sea witch Ursula in the film, Bailey's siren-like appeal didn't end when the cameras stopped rolling.
In a press interview for the movie, McCarthy shared that Bailey had an endearing habit of quietly humming all the time, sometimes without even realizing that she was doing it. McCarthy's description of the way she and even members of the sound crew reacted to Bailey's constant lovely humming is a testament to the heartwarming, wholesome magic of music.
"Halle is, at all times, incredibly quietly humming. There is always this beautiful…it's a different melody…it's so quietly," said McCarthy. She explained that the actors were mic'd so they could hear one another when they were far away from each other on set, and the mics were so powerful they could even hear if they whispered. And McCarthy would always hear her humming through her earpiece.
"There's always music generating," the actor said. "It's the most beautiful thing in the world."
McCarthy described how the sound guy with the boom mic would watch her with a look of tender awe. She asked him if he could hear her humming, and he whispered, "I can always hear it. It's my favorite thing."
Watch McCarthy describe the "divine" experience of hearing Halle Bailey's natural musicality on set:
melissa mccarthy shares one of her favourite moments from the little mermaid set #hallebailey #melissamccarthy #thelittlemermaid
The way McCarthy describes it, it almost sounds as if Halle Bailey were a real-life Disney princess. Perhaps the magic is real after all…
If you haven't seen "The Little Mermaid" yet, check out two of our writers' spoiler-free thoughts on the film here and here.
Couple buys new house and finds abandoned dog tied to a tree by the old homeowners
Who could abandon that sweet face?
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.”
@geaux75 The people that sold our house to us left behind their 10yr old dog they had since it was a puppy. I was so stressed we wouldnt get the house and something bad would happeb to her. We are going to maje her life so good. She will never be left all alone tied to a tree. 😭😢@roodytoots ♬ Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) [2018 Remaster] - Kate Bush
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.
@geaux75 Replying to @ohitscourtney ♬ Lucky Girl - Carlina
“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:
@geaux75 Taking Molly to get a treat! Stay tuned!! #mollysnewlife#goodgollymissmolly♬ original sound - Mollysnewlife 🐾🐕💗
And in case you’re wondering, the kitty is doing well, too, though it still prefers to stay outdoors.
Molly also has two indoor cat siblings who instantly welcomed her into the family. The video below shows one of them, Joofus, comforting a trembling Molly with kisses during a thunderstorm.
@geaux75 We had a big storm this morning and Molly was having a hard time. Joofus got on the bed and started comforting her. It was the sweetest thing. They got snuggled up and Molly went to sleep. Animals are amazing. #mollysnewlife#petsarefamily♬ I Won't Let Go - Rascal Flatts
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.
'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.
Youth choir from South Africa moves 'AGT' audience with a touching tribute to Nightbirde
The group was so inspired by the former 'AGT' contestant that they sang her song, "It's OK," leaving everyone in tears.
Season 18 of “America’s Got Talent” kicked off on May 30th, and one of the most memorable acts of the night came in the form of a touching tribute to a former well-loved ‘AGT’ contestant.
Hailing from South Africa, the all-white-clad Mzansi Youth Choir began a capella singing “It’s OK,” which was instantly recognized as a tune created by Nightbirde—a young woman remembered not only for her lovely singing voice, but also for her incredible emotional resilience.Back in 2021, Nightbirde arrived on the stage with only a 2% chance of surviving a third round of cancer. But still, she kept to her philosophy of "You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy." She passed away in Feb 2022, but not before sharing her beautiful heart with the world.
The group resonated with Nightbirde’s story of holding onto hope through tragedy, as it echoed their own. One of the members explained that the choir had been formed 20 years ago after the founders had been carjacked by a group of troubled youths. Mzansi was seen as “an opportunity to change young lives.”
After watching Nightbirde on ‘AGT,’ the kids recorded their own version of “It’s OK,” which became a “pillar of strength during difficult times.” And so, they chose the tune to continue the singer’s legacy.
Understandably, both the audience and the judges became emotional after watching. Even the impenetrable Simon Cowell was moved to tears—a rare feat once achieved by Nightbirde herself.
“I know how much this would have meant to her. Right up until the end, she was so passionate about sharing her music. And this has gone all over the world, and you’ve come back here with the most amazing tribute. It was just breathtaking,” he told the choir.
He then turned to the audience to allow them a say in whether or not Mzansi should get the Golden Buzzer—an ‘AGT’ first. As the audience began chanting “Golden Buzzer,” the verdict became evident. And as the group was showered in golden confetti, they shaped their hands into hearts.
We don’t really get a say in when our story ends. But our story lives on in the hearts we touch. It really is one of humanity's greatest gifts.
'You saved my life': Suicidal person's life is changed after reading a homemade bumper sticker
One kind note can change the world.
If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255) or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line: 741741.
There’s an old Hebrew saying that if you “save one life, you save the world entire.” Who knows if Brooke Lacey, 22, had that lofty goal when she began a campaign in 2020 to help uplift people’s spirits during the first COVID-19 wave.
But her kind efforts may have done just that.
Lacey has struggled with mental health issues throughout her life and she knew that people like her were going to have a really hard time during COVID-19 lockdowns. A study from May 2021 found that the New Zealand population had “higher depression and anxiety compared with population norms.” The study also found that “younger people” and “those most at risk of COVID-19 reported poorer mental health.”
To help those who may be struggling, Lacey printed 600 stickers with an uplifting message and posted them around places where people may take their lives, including trains, bridges and large bodies of water in Wellington, New Zealand. She also made a bumper sticker with the same message for her car.
The stickers spoke directly to those who may be contemplating taking their own life. “Please don’t take your life today,” the stickers read. “The world is so much better with you in it. More than you realize, stay.”
Earlier this month, Lacey parked her car in her university’s lot and when she returned to her vehicle to leave, she noticed a note was affixed to the windshield. Thinking it was someone complaining about how she parked or a ticket, she prepared for the worst but wound up being blindsided by the positive message.
A driver\u2019s bumper sticker has saved a stranger\u2019s life.\n\nAfter her own battle with depression 22-year-old university student Brooke Lacey was inspired to create a batch of 600 signs to inspire those battling mental illness.\n\n#StarFMNews919 @Star919FMpic.twitter.com/0SSHhUvyvK— StarFMNews919 (@StarFMNews919) 1645525333
A 22 year New Zealand student called Brooke Lacey, who'd suffered with depression created some bumper stickers to help others who might be going through a similar experience. Recently she found a heartfelt note under her windscreen wiper to thank herpic.twitter.com/kFfu9wtXnN— Giles Paley-Phillips (@Giles Paley-Phillips) 1645468625
“I left my house with a plan and asked for a sign, any sign, I was doing the right thing when I saw your car in the parking lot. Thank you,” the note read. At first, Lacey wasn’t sure what the person was referring to, then she remembered her homemade bumper sticker.
“I had these made so long ago, put one on my car and forgot about them, until now,” she tweeted on her since deactivated account. “I am so glad whoever you are chose to stay today. You never know who needs this reminder.”
Now, it’s unclear exactly what the person’s “plan” was, but there's no doubt that Lacey’s bumper sticker inspired them to choose life. Let’s hope that the sticker also inspired them to seek professional help for whatever difficulties they are going through.
Whether it was intentional or not, Lacey’s sticker was effective because it followed one of the most important strategies that people use at suicide hotlines. According to Science.org, it’s of utmost importance that people contemplating suicide are handled with “respect and empathy.”
Lacey's story is a beautiful reminder of the power that one simple, thoughtful gesture can have on another person’s life. Every day, there are people all around us who are looking for a sign to give them a reason keep going. Whether it’s a hug, a smile or the right message in the right place at the right time, we should all be like Lacey and make sure everyone knows that the world is better with them in it. In fact, much more than they ever realize.
This article originally appeared on 02.24.22