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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
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 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
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.
“Allow girls to show up, take up space and not smile if they don’t want to.”
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.
Take a look:
@bdlighted never underestimate the power of a photoshoot for your kids confidence #moodymini#kidsphotographer#childrensphotography#portraitphotographer#confidenceboost#kidsconfidence#familyphotoshootideas#familyphotoshoots#studiophotography#blackandwhitephoto#girlpower#girlempowerment#donttellmetosmile#momsofgirls#girlmom#greenscreen♬ Little Girl Gone - CHINCHILLA
Comments began flooding in commending Light for how she authentically portrayed the girls as individuals, rather than producing cookie-cutter images of them.
“I love how they are not trying to be anything ‘extra’ just their own raw and savage selves,” one person wrote.
Another added, “I can feel their power through my phone.”
Light redirected the praise toward her clients, saying, “They are even more amazing in person! Like that vibe you feel is ALL THEM. I’m just there capturing it.”
For many women who had their own memories of being told to smile for photos, seeing the images had a profound effect.
“CHILLS! This healed something in me. Thank you.” one person commented.
“The Sears family photo trauma was REAL” wrote another.
And for the record, Light doesn’t make boys smile either. Here’s the proof in her follow-up video:
@bdlighted these mom's got me blushing in my DMs 📸 I've never had my creativity or my photography validated so much in my life. thank you for the outpouring of love on these photos this week. it's meant more than you can ever know. #boymom#boymoms#moodymini#familyphotoshoots#familyphotoshootideas#portraitphotographer#studiophotography#kidsphotographer#kidsconfidence#childrensphotography#greenscreen♬ Area Codes - Kali
In the post, Light shared how touched she was by the overwhelmingly positive response.
“I’ve never had my creativity or my photography validated so much in my life. Thank you for the outpouring of love on these photos this week. It’s meant more than you can ever know,” she wrote.
Imagine that…celebrating others for their authentic selves, then being celebrated yourself. Now that’s something worth smiling for.
“If it was my kid on the bus, I would want the bus driver to do the exact same thing."
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.
It was clear that she was in a race against time with how quickly the bus was overcome with smoke. Thankfully, Williams was able to get all 32 kids off the bus and lined up along the fence before it burst into flames.
"I was the last person off once I get off, I turned around and I just seen flames," said Williams told WTMJ. "I wanted to make sure that I was safe, baby was safe and you know if it was my kid on the bus I would've wanted one of the bus drivers to act the same way that I did."
None of the children suffered injuries and the soon-to-be new mom was treated for smoke inhalation and was able to return to work the following day. You can watch the incredible story below.
"Imagine telling them that their free unlimited minutes only started after 9:00 and on the weekends."
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.
He goes on to talk about trying to have a love life during those times. Since phone access was restricted, you had limited time to woo anyone after school, which meant the alternative was attempting to do it during school hours. But that was also a problem because teachers were kind of tattle-tales back then, according to Thomas.
"It's not even like you could talk to your friends at school 'cause they would call your house and tell your mama that you didn't care about your education and you wasn't trying to learn," he complained. "Because all you come to school for is to sit around and talk to your friends."
Honestly, the video is causing flashbacks, especially when he talks about teachers intercepting love notes and reading them in front of the class. Thomas jokes about how millennials were making history with their self-taught coding skills on MySpace while the younger generation has the help of AI. The entire video is full of head-nodding moments if you grew up a millennial, or like me, a Xennial. Watch it below.
We was out here making history! But go off though..
Remember when you owned the software you purchased? Those were the days.
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!
1. "New furniture made out of real wood."
2. "Owning the software you purchased."
3. "Paying no more than 30% of your income in rent."
u/DaughterEarth added: "I lived in poverty housing and this was how they determined our rent. It was 30% of mom's income, regardless of how much she was making. That was 20 years ago, not sure what starving kids do today."
4. "Concert ticket prices."
u/CathedralEngine added: "17 years ago I spent $30 to see an internationally touring band play a concert, and I thought that was way too high. Now I’m spending minimum $20 to see local bands. Just on admission."
5. "Household products that don't break within the first few years of use. My grandma had the same fridge from 1993 before deciding to switch to a newer, bigger one two years ago. My mom's wedding cookware is still going strong 25 years later, but whenever she needs new pans, they start flaking Teflon into the food within a few months."
6. "Not being expected to be reachable 24/7."
7. "Being able to afford going out every Friday after work."
8. "Farmer's markets. You used to be able to go down and get fruit and vegetables cheaper than the grocery store. Now it seems like they charge 3x more than stores do."
9. "Single income families buying a home."
u/Mashy6012 read everyone's mind by adding: "Buying a home in general"
10. "Good quality fabric in clothing. I have clothes from the 90s (and 80s from my mother) that still hold up today. These days, I'm lucky if my shirt isn't saggy and misshapen within a year."
11. "Items not requiring a subscription each month."
12. "Legroom on an airplane."
13. "Free driver’s education classes taught in all high schools."
14 . "Family vacations. I remember going on road trips regularly as a kid and even flying once or twice. Now that I have kids, I cannot afford a weeklong trip to the Badlands, Grand Canyon, Disney/Universal Studios, etc. The best I can do is a day trip to the Wisconsin Dells maybe once a year."
14. "Apartments. I could get a one-bedroom apartment in Wisconsin back in 1997 for under $500. Now that same apartment is at least $2,000."
15. "Affordable healthcare."
16. "People making friends with one another purely because they enjoy their companionship and not because of networking."
17. "Calling a company and getting a person on the other end of the phone.
18. "Drinking water from the tap without filters and softeners."
19. "Being able to dance and have a good time without having the risk that it will end up being recorded and put on social media."
That wedding you're about to drop $20,000 on? It's meaningless. Here's what really matters.
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.
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.
Like, a lot.
There have been numerous high-profile controversies surrounding LGBTQ rights recently that make it appear as though there has been a considerable backlash in acceptance of the LGBTQ community among Americans.
There’s the Bud Light backlash after the popular beer brand used trans activist Dylan Mulvaney as a spokesperson. There was an uproar after the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on LGBTQ Pride Night. There has also been an ongoing controversy surrounding Target selling LGBTQ-friendly merchandise.
Clearly, if people are getting riled up over the normalization of LGBTQ culture throughout America, we must be amid a considerable backlash, right? In reality, the truth is the exact opposite.
A new poll by GLAAD has found that non-LGBTQ Americans are more accepting of the LGBTQ community than ever and want them to be treated like everyone else. So, even though there is a loud contingent of political activists pushing back against LGBTQ progress, they don’t seem to significantly impact the growing movement toward acceptance.
Simply put, the opposition to LGBTQ people may be loud, but it’s only getting smaller.
\u201cGLAAD Report Finds 75% of Non-LGBTQ Adults Are Comfortable Seeing Queer People in Ads @PinkMediaWorld - A new @GLAAD study found that less than a third of non-LGBT adults personally know a transgender person.\nhttps://t.co/8zCzzKuvuB\u201d— LGBTQ+ Brand Voice (@LGBTQ+ Brand Voice) 1685710714
The survey of over 25,000 non-LGBTQ Americans found three encouraging facts:
The study also found that despite outrage over Dylan Mulvaney appearing in a Bud Light promotion, the vast majority of Americans are okay with seeing LGBTQ people and families represented in the media.
\u201c"They want to make Pride toxic": GLAAD's Sarah Kate Ellis on how attacks against stores that carry Pride merchandise contradict a study that found the majority of Americans are comfortable seeing LGBTQ people in ads. https://t.co/KXSDBNb9nk\u201d— MSNBC (@MSNBC) 1685651143
This corresponds with the fact that on the 2021 to 2022 TV season nearly 12% of all regular characters on prime-time television were LGBTQ. That’s a sea change over the 2005 to 2006 report that found only 2% of all characters were LGBTQ.
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."