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You Can Have Multiple Sclerosis and Still Have a Life

If you have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), you might be worried that is signals the end of life as you know it. There are a lot of rumors and misunderstandings about MS out there, and you might have heard some of the ones described here.

But the truth is that life goes on. They might have to make some adjustments, but when people with MS are busy living their lives, other folks may not even know that they have MS.

MS myth: Because there’s no cure, there’s nothing you can do about your MS

True enough — there is no cure for MS yet. But, the good news is that over the last 20 years, more progress has been made in the treatment of MS than in all the time since the disease was described in 1868 by Jean-Martin Charcot.

MS treatment is now a package deal — complete with medications to manage your relapses and slow the disease course, medications and rehabilitation strategies to keep you safe, active, and complication-free, and emotional support to help you sort it all out. You can be healthy and feel well with MS.

MS myth: People with MS can’t handle stress

After diagnosis, one of the first things you may hear from well-meaning family members and friends, from some health professionals, and from info on the Internet is that stress isn’t good for you. Even though it’s clear that too much stress isn’t particularly good for anyone, the fact is that the relationship between stress and MS just isn’t all that clear.

Whatever the final conclusion turns out to be, the bottom line is that life is stressful, so trying to rid your life of stress can become a stressful and ultimately fruitless effort.

Before you rush to try and eliminate all the stresses from your life — particularly a major activity such as employment (which also provides income and a sense of accomplishment) — take time to think through your decision. Being unemployed isn’t exactly a stress-free bed of roses. It’s better to figure out how to manage the stresses in your life more comfortably than to give up those things that give your life meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.

MS myth: People with MS shouldn’t have children

Fortunately, this myth is oh so old hat. Since about 1950, the research has shown that men and women with MS can have healthy babies and happy kids: MS doesn’t affect pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. And these events, in turn, have no long-term effect on a woman’s level of disability. In fact, the hormones of pregnancy offer some protection against MS relapses.

Women do have a high risk of relapse during the 8 to 12 weeks after delivery, but these relapses don’t lead to greater disability over the long term. And even though children who have a parent with MS have a somewhat higher risk of developing MS than other children, the risk remains fairly low.

MS myth: No one can understand how MS makes you feel

No one else is standing in your shoes. Given that everyone’s MS is different, your experience is definitely your own. But, lots of folks in the MS community (in self-help groups, online, at the National MS Society and other MS organizations, and on your healthcare team) really do understand what you’re going through.

They comprehend the feelings of loss, anger, and anxiety that you live with, as well as the challenges and frustrations that crop up every day. And they understand the sense of accomplishment you feel when you overcome them. The more you’re willing to share, the more understanding you’ll find in others. Check out the Society’s online community to hear people’s stories and share your own if you choose.

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