an interview to inspire: Jesse & MS

I recently found out that my friend, Jesse Lee from high school was diagnosed with MS. I don’t know alot about MS and saw an opportunity to learn about the disease and share it with others. Jesse is a really cool guy (and funny) so when I found out about him and MS, I was really interested to learn more. Below is my interview with Jesse. Please read it. I assure you it will touch your heart and inspire you. You can donate too MS and help Jesse raise money for the cause here or by following the links below.

Did you have symptoms, how did you know?

The first two symptoms I encountered were numbness in my fingers and face and blurry vision in one eye. It was in the summer of 2007 while playing baseball. I have always been a good athlete and all of a sudden I was missing fly balls because of my blurry vision and the numbness caused my coordination to be off. I contacted my Doctor who originally gave me eye drops. Once the eye drops didn’t work I was sent for an MRI.

When did you find out you had MS?

After my first MRI came back and showed some lesions on the brain, a neurologist that I was referred to said there was a possibility that I had MS and sent me for more tests and a second MRI. The results of those tests confirmed I did in fact have MS and I was officially diagnosed in March of 2008. This was a very frustrating time because as you can see it took almost a year to diagnose and so much uncertainty was surrounding while other symptoms started to arrive and get worse. These other symptoms included; loss of balance, poor short term memory and other cognitive problems, depression, extreme fatigue, itchiness, nerve pain, bowel and bladder problem in which I was hospitalized a few times.

How has MS affected you physically?

In addition to the symptoms described above, my physical problems such as the loss of balance and blurry vision have forced me to quit playing baseball and hockey because it has become dangerous for me to participate in these sports. I have also always had physical jobs and am currently unable to work due to these reasons. I temporarily went back to school to work in an office setting, but my lack of short term memory and other cognitive problems made it extremely difficult to follow simple instructions. MS is also a very unpredictable disease in which symptoms come and go and therefore an individual living with MS may be able to work at some times and not at others. I also used to help my Grandmother with many physical tasks around her house and I am now very limited in the help I can give her.

How has MS affected you emotionally?

This disease has affected me emotionally in many ways. Initially, I became very angry and depressed. The fact that there is still no cure for MS made it difficult to have any hope for the future. I also felt cheated. I am still very young and was angry that so much had been taken away from me.

How has MS affected your relationship with others?

MS has affected my relationship with others in both positive and negative ways. The relationships with the people closest to me such as my family and my girlfriend have grown much stronger as we have learned to value the important things in life. On the other hand, MS has made me feel very isolated as I have lost contact with many friends who I no longer see as I don’t participate in the sports and other activities I once did. They also seem to be afraid to address the subject and therefore choose to avoid it and me.What do you want people to know about MS?
I want people to know that 1 in 2 Canadians knows someone with MS, which means that this is significant problem. I want them to read my story and be able to put a face with the disease. I also want them to know that so much research is currently going on that is dramatically improving the lives of individuals with MS. Much progress has occurred in even the last 10 years, so you really are making a difference when you donate.

How has your life changed since your diagnosis?

I can no longer work. I have lost some friends. I now have to take a disease modifying drug which consists of a daily injection along with a bunch of other medications and vitamins. I have had to move in with my grandparents as disability does not provide enough money to financially support myself any longer.

What do you want other people to know about your life?

I want people to know that this is a very tiring disease and every day is a struggle. I want people to know that this terrible disease can ambush you in the prime of your life and dramatically change your current life and your future plans in a very short period of time. Despite that, I have learned that this situation has made me a stronger person.

Who can get MS/what causes MS?

MS does not discriminate; pretty much anyone can get MS. MS is believed to be an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks itself. There is still no definitive answer as to what causes MS but there are demographics that more commonly get MS. MS is more commonly diagnosed in individuals living in parts of the world where there are less hours of sunlight (Canada has one of the highest rates in the world), individuals between the age of 18 and 40 (although, children and teens are now being diagnosed in much higher rates), and individuals with a northern European background. But people outside these demographics still get MS. Some theories on what causes MS include a vitamin D deficiency (the vitamin in sunlight) and a virus contracted in childhood. Neither of these theories have been confirmed or rejected which is why donating to research is so important.

How can people support your cause?

You can support my cause by visiting my fundraising page and pledging me in the 2009 MS Walk, donating to the MS Society of Canada once the walk is over, or signing up for the MS Walk in your city and raising more money and awareness to find a cure.

How do you inspire others?

Instead of being angry and depressed I have decided to focus my energy on positive activities such as participating in the MS Walk. I actively pursue pledges so that I can make a difference for the future of those affected by MS. I also try to show those people who have stuck around how much I appreciate them and try not to take anything for granted.

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