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.
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.
Fitness coach and child with cerebral palsy inspire each other.
Everybody needs someone who can relate to them; it's one of the things that connects the human experience. For a 5-year-old New Jersey girl named Colbie Durborow, that connection came just in time. Colbie has been noticing people staring at her lately as she gets around using leg braces, a walker and sometimes a wheelchair, and she told her mom that she doesn't like it when people stare.
Colbie was born 17 weeks early and has cerebral palsy (CP), a group of disorders that affect balance, mobility and posture, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her mom connected with former CrossFit trainer Steph Roach on Instagram, and the two became friends.
Roach also has CP and uses a wheelchair, but she defied the expectations of others by becoming a fitness coach, CrossFit instructor and author.
"When I saw Colbie and I saw the way that Amanda was guiding Colbie through life, it was just like we were meant to be friends," Roach explained to CBS Mornings.
The two women and Colbie got to know each other online, and before long, Roach was acting as a mentor for the little girl. They were all finally able to meet in January, and the author got to teach Colbie how to navigate some uncomfortable situations.
"Colbie realizes that people are starting to look at her and see her maybe a little bit differently, so we've had some big conversations about how that might make her feel," Roach said.
She went on to encourage the little girl that it's OK to tell people that she doesn't like it when they stare and to offer to answer questions people may have. The exchange was very sweet. Roach later admitted that she thought that Colbie could do anything, and said through tears that if she could go back to her 5-year-old self, she would tell her to be proud of herself.
It's clear that these two have developed a special bond through their connection with CP. Thanks to having Roach in her life, Colbie is learning that she can do things that exceed expectations. You can watch their adorable bond below:
A woman is upset with her husband and wants to leave him.
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.
The expectation to put on an air of happy, fun, pleasant nonconfrontation through baring teeth, otherwise known as smiling, is something many, if not most, women know very well. What’s more, this pressure is often introduced to women at a very early age.
And obviously, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with naturally being a happy, smiling person, issues arise when kids are taught that being themselves, just as they are, isn’t acceptable.
That’s why people are so impressed with North Carolina-based photographer Brooke Light’s (@bdlighted on TikTok) hands-off approach when it comes to taking pictures of young girls.
Her philosophy is simple, but oh so poignant: Allow girls to show up, take up space, and perhaps most importantly, not smile if they don’t want to.
Light posted a video showing some of her recent portraits, and truly, the work speaks for itself. Each of the girls’ distinct, unique personalities shine in these black-and-white images. Plus the lighting is moody and artsy and cool as hell. So much better than a forced, cheesy, smiling pic.
Xavier Jones is given his scholarship to Harris-Stowe Stete University in St. Louis.
A story out of St. Louis shows how some students have to overcome many more barriers than others on their road to success. But in this student's case, people in important positions recognized his perseverance and rewarded him in a way that could make his future less of a struggle.
According to a report from KAKE, 14-year-old Xavier Jones had no ride to his 8th-grade graduation ceremony, so he walked six miles to pick up his diploma.
“I was going to tell an adult, but my grandpa’s car was down. So I was just going to walk there,” he told KAKE.
Jones was graduating from Yeatman Middle School, but the ceremony was held at Harris-Stowe State University, a public historically-Black university in St. Louis.
“I looked up Harris-Stowe University on Google Maps and then I saw the walking distance and then I said I could probably make it,” Xavier told KAKE. “I wanted to walk across the stage.”
Knowing it would be a long walk, he brought along his brother and friend for the journey. To get from his home in West Florissant to Harris-Stowe State University took them two and a half hours.
Darren Seals, Jones’ mentor, called attention to the student's incredible dedication during a speech at the ceremony.
“I had to stop my speech and call him on board and was like, ‘Hey, everybody get off your feet and give him a standing ovation,'” Seals told Fox 2. “They clapped for him. They were like, ‘Woah, this boy walked.'”
Jones’ journey also caught the attention of Dr. Latonia Collins Smith, the president of Harris-Stowe State University, who was impressed by his determination.
“When I heard that story and to see that young man who was so bright and excited and driven,” President Collins Smith said. “It spoke volumes to me. It spoke resilience, persistence, perseverance. Regardless of what the adversity is, I’m going to press my way to this promotion ceremony. So that is what sparked my interest in saying, ‘Hey, this is the type of kid that we want to recruit to Harris-Stowe.”
President Collins Smith sees Jones as an example of the many barriers that students in the area face to getting an education. “Many of our students come with a story and many of our students come with environmental barriers they have overcome or that they are currently overcoming,” President Collins Smith told KAKE.
To reward his incredible dedication, the school gave him a full-ride scholarship for when he graduates high school. The scholarship includes four years of tuition, books and student fees.
When Jones heard he got a “free ride” to college, he thought it meant transportation. When Seals explained it was a scholarship, Jones couldn’t believe it. “Wait a minute, I don’t have to pay for college?” he asked Seals.
Jones hopes he can be a NASCAR driver after he graduates college.
“At the end of the rainbow, there’s a pot of gold. I learned a lot from Xavier that day," says President Collins Smith. "Even on your worst day, keep pressing forward.”
We've got a recovery day photo recreation, Halle Bailey's sweet humming habit, energetic elders and more in this week's list.
It's officially June, the kickoff of summer excitement, when people's calendars fill with graduations, weddings, Pride celebrations, barbecues, longed-for vacations and more. So much fun to be had in June!
But with the good comes the not-so-good, of course. Summer also means annoying construction, pesky mosquitos, sticky hot grossness when the temp gets too high, spending a fortune on sunscreen, etc.
We can always find things to be happy about and we can always find things to complain about. That's just life. The more we shift our focus to the positive, even while we grapple our way through the tough stuff, the better off we'll be. That's not just airy-fairy fluff—there's science behind the power of positivity.
Johns Hopkins Medicine says that a positive personality may be something we're born with, but there are things we all can to do brighten our outlook on things. Their first tip? "Simply smile more."
"A University of Kansas study found that smiling—even fake smiling—reduces heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations," Johns Hopkins shares. "So try a few minutes of YouTube humor therapy when you’re stomping your feet waiting in line or fuming over a work or family situation."
We've got something better—or rather, 10 things better. Here's a roundup of smile-worthy things that crossed our path this week. Enjoy!
1. Melissa McCarthy describes Halle Bailey’s endearing humming habit on ‘The Little Mermaid’ set
For those unfamiliar, "recovery day" is simply the day after the wedding, when some folks have a low-key gathering to round out the celebrations before sending the couple off for their honeymoon. What a fun pair these two are!
6. 'Hotel California' performed on traditional Chinese guzheng is gorgeously hypnotic
Seeing it done this way really highlights the beauty of the song as well as the instrument, doesn't it? Just awesome.
7. Woman squeals in delight as raccoon proves that truly everyone runs on Dunkin'
#Raccoon at #Dunkin proves that EVERYONE RUNS ON DUNKIN 🤣🦝🍩
The casual way the person at the window hands the trash panda its doughnut and the way it grabs it with both hands? Too precious. Give that cutie all the doughnuts it desires.
8. South African youth choir pays moving tribute with Nightbirde's 'It's OK' and brings Simon Cowell to tears
Nightbirde was the stage name of Jane Marczewski, a singer who touched millions with her resilience and positivity in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis. The fact that her song reached all the way around the world to inspire young people in South Africa is just beautiful. Read the full story here.
9. Teacher wakes up to find the entire senior class sleeping in her house
That initial shock followed by a quick rally! She's clearly a seasoned teacher. Impressive that they pulled the senior prank off, but even more impressive the way she responded—"This is the most beautiful sight." Three cheers for Ms. McGrath.
10. Dance your way through the weekend with the energy of these two delightful dance partners