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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.

Courtesy of Sanofi

Helga, Nathalie and Gina all have MS, and their experiences show how differently the disease can manifest.

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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.

woman with horse, woman riding horseGina 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.

woman in wheelchair holding medal, woman rowingNathalie 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.”

woman exiting water after swimming, woman with great daneHelga'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.

MAT-GLB-2301642-v1.0-05/2023

This article was sponsored by Sanofi. Participants were compensated when applicable.

Man diagnosed as a sociopath answers people's questions.

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.

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Heroes

Pregnant bus driver saves children moments before bus bursts into flames

“If it was my kid on the bus, I would want the bus driver to do the exact same thing."

Pregnant bus driver evacuates bus full of kids before is bursts into flames

Riding the school bus is generally an uneventful experience outside of the occasional fight or someone sitting in you seat. In Milwaukee, students and the bus driver had a more exciting trip than any of them planned. As the bus driver, Imunek Williams, was nearing the school to drop off a bus full of children, the bus started filling with smoke.

Williams, who is eight months pregnant, told WISN, "I started to smell something funny at the stoplight, and I just thought it was normal smoke coming from another car, because I always smell smoke or weird smells."

But the smoke only got thicker as they continued to drive. It was then that Williams knew that she had to make a decision quickly to save herself and the kids entrusted to her care. The bus was only a half mile away from the school when the mom-to-be attempted to radio in the condition of the bus to dispatch.

"I couldn't barely get what I was trying to say out because of the smoke was hitting me in the face in my eyes so I was just like OK forget the radio. Just got the kids off the bus," Williams told WTMJ.

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Joy

Man lists things millennials grew up with that Gen Z would be outraged by

"Imagine telling them that their free unlimited minutes only started after 9:00 and on the weekends."

Things Gen Z would be outraged by that were normal for millennials.

There will likely always be some kind of playful generation war going on between older and younger generations. This time it's a millennial throwing what some may deem as truth bombs at Gen Z, seemingly unprompted. (Well, it could be that he's upset that Gen Z is getting all the credit for being tech savvy since the majority of his complaints were technology related.)

Dwight Thomas uploaded a video to TikTok listing things that millennials grew up with that the generation below him would be outraged by. As someone who would be considered an elder millennial by some people, I'd have to agree. The man makes some valid points about things we experienced as teenagers that would likely make teens today aggressively send out Change.org petitions.

"These new-age kids will never understand the struggle. Imagine telling them that their free unlimited minutes only started after 9:00 and on the weekends," Thomas says into the camera.

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Pop Culture

People share totally normal things from the 90s/00s that are now considered 'luxuries'

Remember when you owned the software you purchased? Those were the days.

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Really should have appreciated some of these things.

Bob Dylan sang that the times are a-changin' back in the late 70s, and since then, they haven't ever stopped a-changin'. And yes, change has been a constant for all of humanity's existence, but things certainly seem to be progressing a whole heck of a lot faster, don't they?

Before ya know it, those once fashion-forward pants you purchased are now retro, you don't understand any of the slang the kids are spouting, and you're doing your taxes, grocery planning and work meetings all from your phone. You know, that device that once only…gasp…called people.

It certainly feels like more than simply growing older, too. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, to the point where human beings are finally having a hard time keeping up. Combine that with uncertain economic times, and it's no wonder that some folks are left reminiscing about how, in some (not all or even most, but some) ways, the good old days really were good.

Take for instance this interesting question posed by u/zombiem00se over on Ask Reddit. They asked: "What was normal 20 to 30 years ago but is considered a luxury now?"

Oh yeah. Get ready for either some bittersweet nostalgia, or to shake your head at just how much you're probably paying for something that was once bought for pennies. Have fun!

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Joy

Man shares the premarital counseling he wishes he'd gotten and it's spot on

That wedding you're about to drop $20,000 on? It's meaningless. Here's what really matters.

Jimmy Knowles shares the premarital advice he wishes he'd had

When people decide to get married, the primary focus in the relationship often becomes the wedding. There are so many details to think about—the venue, the guest list, the food, the wedding party, the dress and tux…it's practically a full-time job, especially if you're going big.

Planning a wedding can be so time-consuming that a lot of couples neglect to prepare for the more important thing—their actual marriage. Most people understand that marriage is a long-term commitment, but many people go into it without a solid understanding of what that commitment entails and without preparing their relationship for long-term success.

That's the impetus behind Jimmy Knowles' (aka "Jimmy on Relationships") viral take on pre-marital counseling. Knowles' video titled "The Premarital Counseling I Wish I Had YEARS Ago" has been viewed over a million times on Facebook, and judging by the comments, he nailed what every soon-to-be-married couple needs to hear.

In the video, a couple is visiting with a counselor for premarital counseling. All three characters are played by Knowles himself, which is quite entertaining, but his counseling advice is spot on.

After asking the couple if they're excited about their wedding, the counselor says, "Yeah, it's meaningless. Your wedding—it has nothing to do with the success of your relationship. I'm not going to say it's a waste of $20,000, unless of course you get divorced a few years later, which 50% of people do. So your marriage is practically a coin flip."

That may sound cynical and pessimistic, but Jimmy the Counselor is anything but. His point is that people spent all this time and energy planning their wedding and almost no time preparing their relationship to last long-term. Then he goes into all kinds of reasons why relationships fail, from people not having healthy relationship models to toxic and problematic behaviors that they themselves might not even be aware of.

As he lays all of this out for the couple, they appear to be taken aback. And when he asks them what they're going to do that's different from people who end up divorced or in unfulfilling, unhealthy marriages, they respond that what's different about them is that they're "in love."

"Wrong," Jimmy responds. "Everyone's in love on their wedding day. Do you know why 50% of those marriages fail? Because they didn't know what love required of them—service, selflessness, sacrifice. Not one-sided. Mutual."

"They didn't have a plan to get things right," he adds. "And they didn't have a plan for what to do when things got hard and stressful, which they always do eventually."

Counselor Jimmy (who is not a real counselor, for the record) pulls no punches, but he delivers the reality of marriage in a way that both highlights what it requires and also what's really beautiful about it.

In less than 10 minutes, he manages to entertain while also dropping a crapton of solid truth and advice that would help anyone who is planning on getting married—or even people who are already married—strengthen their relationship.

Watch:

People in the comments expressed their appreciation for the free marital counseling.

"As a child of divorce and someone who just celebrated our 20th anniversary, I wholeheartedly agree with every single word," shared one commenter. "Fantastic wisdom here. I can’t say we’ve never hurt each other in conflict, but we have the commitment and care to put in the work and grow through what we’re going through."

"This is really good advice," shared another. "We got married at 17, pregnant, no money with broken childhoods. I thought it was love that got us through all our traumas. But listening to this guy, I realize because we love each other, the talking, the intimacy, the respect and care we gave came naturally. Even now, after over 40 years together, we try not to take it for granted, we still show affection and support."

"This is how my marriage survived and thrived for 25 years, 1 week, and 6 days," shared another. "The day my husband passed away at age 49. A marriage really does take work, but it’s so worth it and knowing it’s a shared experience of love…"

You can find more relationship wisdom from Jimmy on YouTube,Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

More Americans are supportive of the LGBTQ community than ever.

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.

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.

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."