Group tackles MS challenges

Members share information, vent frustrations

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What: A free informational and support meeting about multiple sclerosisWhen: Noon to 1:30 p.m. MondayWhere: Visiting Nurse Association, 940 Central Park Drive First-time participants should call Carol Gordon at 870-3232.

— When the Visiting Nurse Association asked Carol Gordon, a clinical social worker, to host monthly support meetings for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she wasn't sure whether she would have the time.

"Then I went to a meeting and thought, 'I want to keep seeing these people once a month,'" she said.

The meetings help people with MS deal with frustrating and uncertain symptoms of the disease and are a time to exchange information about medications, equipment and other aspects of treatment.

Participants also make sure to laugh.

"It's inspiring to them and also to me to recognize how people find joy in this life, even when they have an illness," Gordon said.

The next meeting is Monday and it is open to families of people with MS and anybody else interested in learning more about the disease, which attacks a person's brain and spinal cord.

Some people experience "attacks" that recede while other people experience a continuous progression of debilitating symptoms including pain, numbness and tingling, fatigue, muscle stiffness and difficulty walking.

"If you would ask anyone what is the most difficult part, they probably would say the unpredictability," said Dianne Williams, president of the Colorado chapter of the National MS Society.

"You don't know if you'll be able to get out of bed the next morning or pick up your baby."

Researchers don't know the cause of MS, though they think genes are among contributors. They also have found the disease is more frequent among people who grew up in colder climates.

In Colorado, for example, one in every 580 people is diagnosed with MS, compared to the South, where the rate is one in 2,000, Williams said.

Participants in Gordon's group include people who have been diagnosed within the last year and people diagnosed 30 years ago.

They talk about coping with the grief of losing certain capabilities, as well as depression, another common symptom stemming from body chemistry changes.

Other important topics are stress and how it contributes to attacks, as well as strategies for talking about the disease with family, Gordon said.

Overall, the group is a way for people to see how others are dealing with the same difficulties.

"It's remarkable how people react differently and how people can help each other with their different reactions," she said.


-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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