Judy Rogers is an artist who lives in Texas. At the age of 52, she found out she had Multiple Sclerosis, (MS) a disease of the nervous system. The immune system accidentally attacks the myelin, (protective sheath) over the nerve cells in the brain or spine. For many people, it can be extremely debilitating, but Judy has managed the disease and has been thriving for the last 16 years.
When she first discovered she had MS, she had been experiencing unusual symptoms that went on for several weeks. One day, she was shopping in a store when she suddenly felt like her mind wasn’t communicating with her legs. It became difficult to push the shopping cart. Alarmed, she left the store and got help to get home. That was the beginning of her search to find out what was wrong.
Several doctors examined her but hadn’t pinned down the cause until she had an “exacerbation” that put her in the hospital. After she received an MRI, they threw around the idea that MS may be a possibility, but first wanted to make sure it wasn’t something else. Several more months went by with more testing before they determined she had MS. At the time, she was 52 years old. She is now 68 and has been living with the disease for 16 years.
Treatment for MS
Judy has been on the same treatment plan the entire time and it’s been working well. She takes a Copaxone shot three times a week that she injects either by herself or with the help of her husband. When she first started the treatment, she had to inject it seven days a week. She feels blessed that she no longer takes it as often and it’s become part of her weekly routine.
How she feels
Although she has good days and bad days, Judy is still mobile and can continue with most of her activities. One of the symptoms of MS is fatigue. When she’s tired, she takes time to rest for a bit and then she’s able to continue on with her day. One of the hardest things she had to learn is to say “no” to things so she could say “yes” to other things.
Texas is hot in the summer and the heat brings on her MS symptoms. She makes sure to keep cool and tries to visit moderate climates during the hottest months.
Another symptom she deals with is neuropathy, which causes painful pins and needles and weakness in her legs. She knows when it’s time to take a break and rest. To ease the pain, she takes Gabapentin but has also found that it also helps to soak her legs in a cool swimming pool.
MS symptoms vary
The way MS presents itself is different for everyone and can also be different from one day to the next. Early signs include fatigue, weakness, tingling, blurred vision and muscular or neurologic pain.
Finding a passion to aid healing
Judy is an acrylic painter of still life, portraits, and landscapes. Her work features Southwest landscapes as well as churches, cathedrals, and florals. She likes having variety in her artwork. Some of it hangs at a local gallery and she shows at other venues. Before her disease progressed, she traveled to art shows but now it takes too much energy.
Painting is healing for her and it’s her happy place. The MS has loosened up her style, and she likes it even more. Though her paintings are less detailed, she puts her focus into color, shape, and form. Art is progressive, and her disease has become part of that progression. She doesn’t feel the disease has hurt her work, but it’s become more important to her.
She uses her love of art as a ministry to paint with groups and even though she doesn’t give art lessons, she paints at halfway houses or volunteers at the hospital. She also likes to paint with kids and teenagers taking her paint “on the road” in her town.
Tips on how to deal with MS
Listen and encourage – When Judy first found out she had MS, she wanted to find someone to talk to who was living with the disease in a positive way. It’s made a huge difference in how she views her future and she, in turn, listens and encourages others. Even though she’s not a doctor and can’t tell others what’s going to happen, she shares that there is hope.
Find a neurologist you feel comfortable with and have trust in – It’s important to find a medication that works right for you. Then, get on it and stay on it.
Walk and incorporate movement to stay mobile and active – Judy sometimes walks for miles and other times not so far. She listens to her body and does what she can do. She also likes to stretch and do yoga. Besides the MS, she also realizes that she’s 68-years old and is dealing with the normal stiffness and aches that come from being older.
Get outside of yourself and be with others – Rather than isolate herself at home she likes to go out to paint with others and socialize. If you are suffering from MS or any other disability, find something you love to do that you can focus on that will turn lemons into lemonade.
Be proactive with your health – Take charge of your care or have someone else as an advocate. Doctors do their best, but you must be able to wade through the health care system and its red tape for the best outcome.
With 8 grandchildren to keep up with it gives Judy the incentive to take care of herself even more. MS is different for each person, but she wants to be as active as she can.
Judy and her husband still go out on dates and it gives her something to look forward to. Her husband said to her, “You don’t just have MS. We have MS.” He’s been super supportive, making it easier for her to cope with the disease. He’s also encouraging and doesn’t push her when she needs to take a break. Judy feels blessed and reminds herself how blessed she is every day.
“Gratitude doesn’t work unless you say it or show it.” You have to put it into action.
Do you suffer from MS or know someone who does? Please leave a comment below.