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At the young age of 29, Trish Palmer, a registered travel nurse, woke up one morning experiencing numbness and tingling on the right side of her body, which prompted her to go to the emergency room. She was sent home four days later with inconclusive tests from her physician and no diagnosis. After experiencing another relapse and suddenly losing her gag reflex, Trish was then referred to a neurologist, who diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease of the central nervous system for which there is no cure, and over time will lead to some level of disability in most people.1,2 The cause of MS is unknown. Signs and symptoms are unpredictable and can include extreme fatigue, vision, memory problems and difficulty walking.1,2

Palmer is one of the nearly 1 million U.S. adults living with MS,3 which often strikes in the prime of life when people are starting careers and families. MS is the leading cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults and the most common chronic progressive neurological disease affecting millennial-aged people. The average age of onset of MS is 34, and over the next 10 to 15 years, most newly diagnosed MS patients will be millennial-aged people.

“When my doctor told me I had MS, I didn’t really know how to process it,” said Palmer, now 34. “Would I still be able to travel, go on hikes or to my water aerobics classes? I needed time to understand and think about what my new life and future would look like.”

According to the National MS Society, many people newly diagnosed with MS react with shock and denial,4 often leading them to avoid taking proactive steps to manage their condition or connect with the broader MS community. Millennial-aged people with MS, in particular, approach healthcare differently and often prioritize “living their lives” over thinking about treatment. It’s important for those newly diagnosed with MS to be proactive in their care and speak with their doctor about treatment options.

Advocating For What Matters And Talking With Your Doctor About Treatment Options

With the support of her doctor, Palmer started on an MS treatment, but continued to experience relapses, which impacted her ability to do everyday activities. Palmer knew she needed to try something different to reduce the frequency of her relapses and hopefully delay disability progression. She worked closely with her doctor to determine a treatment option that fit her needs and lifestyle.

Geoffrey Eubank, M.D., works with his MS patients to make treatment decisions that make the most sense for their needs and lifestyles. (Photo Provided by OhioHealth)

“It’s important for millennial-aged people living with MS to be proactive in their care and pursue early treatment when a disease-modifying therapy may offer greater impact in delaying disability progression,” said Geoffrey Eubank, M.D., a neurologist at OhioHealth Neurological Physicians. “Younger people living with MS should feel empowered to advocate for what matters to them and talk with their doctor about treatment options.”

Since switching treatments more than two years ago, Palmer has been doing well and encourages others living with the condition to speak with their doctor to find a disease-modifying therapy that can help delay disability progression. “I am so glad that I was vocal about my needs and have a doctor who helped guide me in my treatment decision,” said Palmer. “I finally feel like I found a medicine that works for me.”

Connecting With Your Peers

Since working as a travel nurse, Palmer has met others with MS and is open about her diagnosis, allowing her to connect with people who share some of the same challenges and offer new perspectives around managing MS. There are also several advocacy and social media groups that offer resources for people living with MS. These groups provide a space for people to connect with the MS community, share their story, and find strength in one another.

For many people recently diagnosed, finding a strong support system and hearing inspirational stories first-hand from other millennial-aged people living with MS can empower them to be proactive and take control of their health when it comes to their MS.

The contents and information in this Genentech-provided and sponsored article are for informational purposes only and not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1 or contact your doctor immediately.
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[1] MS International Federation. What is MS? Available at http://www.msif.org/about-ms/what-is-ms/.

[2] National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2015). Multiple Sclerosis: Hope Through Research. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Multiple-Sclerosis-Hope-Through-Research.

[3] Wallin MT, et al. The prevalence of MS in the United States. Neurology. 2019;92(10). http://n.neurology.org/content/early/2019/02/15/WNL.0000000000007035.

[4] Talking with Your Patients About Communicating the MS Diagnosis. National MS Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Diagnosis-of-Multiple-Sclerosis.pdf.