Alicia is living a life that is filled to the brim: she is a wife, a mother, a runner, and a full-time technical sales specialist with a doctoral degree. She is also a master at living with multiple sclerosis.
Diagnosed in the late 1990s, Alicia had “a bumpy ride” in the beginning. But over the years, and with help from the Waddell Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Dr. Maria Melanson, she has learned to manage her disease with a calm expertise. She has intermittent MS, which means that her symptoms come and go. She takes an injection of Rebif (a medication) every other day and gets regular exercise, including a weekly workout with a trainer. She is so fit that she ran the 2008 Flying Pig Marathon in less than six hours.
“Accepting the diagnosis of MS requires a complete lifestyle change – though not necessarily one that is limited,” Alicia says. “We just need to do things differently than everyone else. I’m not symptom free. I have some permanent exacerbations. But I’m not significantly debilitated.
“I’m aware of my disorder and disease and I take care of myself. It’s like having diabetes: you know that you have to eat in a certain way. You have a specific regimen that you have to follow. As long as I manage it, it doesn’t manage me.”
As a technical sales specialist, Alicia covers account in KY and IN, providing solutions to her customers and helping them meet their needs. “I’m a problem solver,” Alicia says.
It’s an approach she applies to everything she does. With help from her trainer, she approached the marathon “very cautiously” with her MS, but with determination. Her pregnancy also went so smoothly that all of her MS symptoms vanished during that time. “It was like a magic wand,” Alicia recalls.
The quest for baby No. 2 has not been as easy, however, and it has underscored the complexities of multiple sclerosis.
“We have been trying to conceive a second child, and during that time I have struggled with several exacerbations because I have been on and off my medication in hopes of getting pregnant,” Alicia says. “We plan to try again this year and know it may be challenging, but we think it’s worth the temporary risk.”
Looking out for Alicia’s long-term health and well-being is Dr. Melanson, a neurologist who specializes in MS at the Waddell Center.
“In order to effectively make the lifestyle change that is necessary with MS, we need care from a team that specializes in MS,” Alicia says. “It’s a dynamic disorder; new information is coming out monthly. All individuals with MS should demand that they be taken care of by a specialist. All should have access to a university research center like the Waddell Center. ” Alicia has encouraging words for others who face the challenges of multiple sclerosis. “MS is not a death sentence,” Alicia says. “You need to explore your options, look for people who will support you. More things are possible than you realize. Don’t take no for an answer!”
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Hope Story Disclaimer – This story describes an individual patient’s experience. Because every person is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Outcomes are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.