Better, Faster, Sooner. Solving the mystery of MS.
Laurel didn’t know what was going on.
“I was scared,” she says. “I was freaked out. But I was relieved, because it answered a lot of questions.”
“It” was her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS). And it answered questions that had Laurel disturbed: Why am I so tired? Why am I losing my balance? Why am I dizzy, why can’t I think straight?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a rare disease where the immune system eats away at what protects our nerves. Affecting roughly 200,000 people each year, it’s a complicated disease to understand, one that has no current cure.
In Laurel’s case, it was a disease with precedent: her family has a history of MS, too.
And Laurel decided to fight it, setting out to find the best doctor available who specialized in MS, a process eased through her sister and brother-in-law’s affiliation with a local MS center.
To Laurel’s surprise, she soon learned that MS had been living in her body, untreated, for more than 30 years. In a search for meaning, she was grateful that she had lived for such a long time without severe symptoms.
Each MS patient endures a similar journey, says Ian, a biopharmaceutical company MS researcher who has not worked with Laurel. The patient experience is “a very individual thing…there are all kinds of factors that can show up, but what it is that affects that individual the most will vary from one person to the next” he adds. The fact that every MS patient reacts differently to the disease makes research more challenging, he says, but it’s challenge everyone in his field of research is ready to take on.
Living with MS makes each day unpredictable, Laurel says. “Every morning when I wake up, I never know how much gas is going to be in my tank.”
That doesn’t stop her from driving forward, and while Laurel laughs that she’s no longer able to stay out with her friends until two in the morning, she credits her fighting ability to the support of family and friends. She also volunteers at a local senior home because connecting with people and giving back gives her the strength she needs to keep fighting.
Ian’s fighting, too. “When I meet MS patients and I hear their stories,” he says, “there’s this urge to get back in the lab and do whatever we’re doing faster, better, sooner.” Motivation also comes from the setbacks seen in research. He explains that with each test you learn something new and that pushes the science and research team forward.
“There’s a bunch of people who feel the same way that I do,” Ian adds. “They’re passionate about what they do. There’s a drive to understand, a drive to make a difference and when you put all of that together, it’s a really remarkable phenomenon.”
Ian urges on Laurel – and every MS patient. “We’re on your side and we’re working very hard for you” he says. “I really think we’re going to make a difference.”