Sunday, November 23, 2014

Carnival of MS Bloggers #162

Welcome to the Carnival of MS Bloggers, a monthly compendium of thoughts and experiences shared by those living with multiple sclerosis.

by Meagan at Multiple Sclerosis, Motherhood, and other Traumatic Experiences

Do you ever have days when you feel like it has all become too overwhelming?

My grandparents, both in uniform during WWII
My grandparents were a living example of heroism and true love despite devastating life circumstances. Have you seen those movies with an unbelievable love story, overcoming all odds?

This is a true story.

When I feel weak, I think of them. When I feel overwhelmed with my lot in life, I think of them. When I want to give up, cursing the universe for the bad hand I was dealt, I think of them.

My grandmother with Bob Hope at the USO, 1940s, Hollywood, CA
Their story began on a Southern California beach in the 1940s, just after World War II began. It was love at first sight, according to my grandparents. My grandfather describes my grandmother as "the most beautiful girl he had ever seen." From that moment on, they hung onto each other through it all, never giving up on this commitment. They both joined the military during the war, my grandmother serving as a WAC, my grandfather in the Army.

Soon after, they married and started a large family, with 3 girls and 4 boys. My mother was the oldest girl, and took on a great deal of responsibility for her younger siblings.

This beautiful love story began to take a turn.

My grandparents on their wedding day, 1945
That beautiful image, that perfect wedding day....the meeting on the beach, the love that brought these two together. This is the foundation of a relationship that would truly stand the test of time, and the test of multiple sclerosis.

Sometimes, difficulties bring out the best in people. Sometimes it takes struggle to find out who we really are, and what we are truly capable of. My grandparents were about to experience that struggle first hand.

My grandmother began to experience new neurological symptoms, new emotional instability, and eventually full blown seizures. The health history of my grandmother is somewhat unclear, because this was occurring in the 1950s, before MRI, before a solid understanding of multiple sclerosis. After years of symptoms and hospitalizations, my grandmother was eventually diagnosed with MS. At this time, the disease was poorly understood, and no treatments whatsoever were available.

My grandmother, mother, and aunt/uncles: 1960s
Looking back, I believe that my grandmother may have had a very progressive form of MS, and combined with almost daily seizures, this led to a rapid decline. A wheelchair made it's appearance when my grandmother was in her 40s, and eventually she needed nursing care and was bedridden. When faced with the option to move my grandmother to a nursing home, my grandfather refused.

Here is the beautiful part of the story.

My grandmother with her caregiver
My grandfather decorated a beautiful, sunny bedroom for his wife. He hired a caregiver who was a wonderful part of the family, present every day to care for the seven children and my grandmother while he worked. He must have been physically and mentally exhausted. He worked full time, served as husband, father of seven, caregiver, and breadwinner.

The family continued to grow, with myself and many other grandchildren making an appearance. Family Christmases, weddings, and other celebrations always included my grandmother. The love between my grandparents could be felt strongly if you were near them, and for many years, the love grew and the care continued. Eventually, however, my grandmother lost her battle with MS.

My grandfather lived on for another 15 years, gardening, visiting with many grandchildren, and enjoying holidays with the family. He would always say that he was going to see his wife again someday. He was waiting for that day.

My grandparents...1980s
The strength of the human spirit is incredible, isn't it? The ability of a human being to sustain the daily grind, work, children, marriage, illness, and even death. The depth of our strength cannot truly be known until we face challenges like MS. We must undergo many changes in life, adapt, overcome, and go on. 

On their grave is the quote "Suffering Disappears, Love Remains."

When you think about it, isn't that the truth? Our suffering isn't permanent. It isn't forever. But do you know what is? Love.

My grandmother with Louis Armstrong, 1950s
With my own diagnosis, I have seen my grandparent's story as a source of inspiration. I have a large family of my own, with six children depending on my husband and myself. I look at my grandparent's story and realize that anything is possible. There is no "I can't." I can and I will. 

When you feel that life has handed you a lousy deal, keep in mind: You are strong and capable. Your strength comes from a place deep within, and you won't believe how strong you can be when you have to. Lean on those around you when you need to.

MS certainly presents a great challenge to each of us, but I am so grateful for the many new treatments available, and the ongoing research. We live in a time of hope and promise, as far as MS goes. We are fortunate.

Despite everything we endure in life, it is still "A Wonderful World," isn't it?

by Lisa Emrich at Brass and Ivory

This concludes the 162nd edition of the Carnival.  The next Carnival of MS Bloggers will be hosted here on December 4, 2014. Please remember to submit a post (via email) from your blog of which you are particularly proud, or which you simply want to share, by noon on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.

Comments for this post.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Please Join Me at iConquerMS™

The news is out!! The Accelerated Cure Project for MS (ACP), a nonprofit organization based in Boston that was started in 2001 by a person living with MS, has launched an exciting new patient-centered research initiative called iConquerMS™.

iConquerMS™is a Multiple Sclerosis Patient-Powered Research Network (MS-PPRN) established with a grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. PCORI’s mission is to fund research that will provide patients, caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

What is iConquerMS™?

The iConquerMS™ initiative is a novel way for you and me and all of us living with MS to work together to fight multiple sclerosis. It provides one centralized location where people with MS are empowered and enabled to securely contribute their health data, connect with others, and submit ideas to advance research.

Each of us is the expert on how MS affects our body and our lives. We have the information and data which researchers need to look for patterns. Each piece of data when combined with hundreds of thousands of other pieces of data becomes what is known as ‘Big Data’ and iConquerMS™ aims to amass the largest single source of combined data regarding MS in the world to date.

How is iConquerMS™ different?

At the heart of iConquerMS™ are people living with this disease, from those with the initial concept, to members of the Governing Board and Committees, to the participants who will contribute their ideas, experience, and data. iConquerMS™ is unique in that it is endorsed and supported by all major MS organizations in the United States, including NMSS, MSF, MSAA, and CanDoMS. Leaders from each organization have joined MS patients, researchers, and experts in the field to serve on iConquerMS™ Committees and Governing Board.

As an MS patient advocate, I am proud to serve as Chair of the Communications Committee for iConquerMS™. When you check out the website at, you may recognize many familiar names and faces of fellow MSers also serving as committee members and staunch supporters of the initiative.

How can you contribute to iConquerMS™?

Register at You will find informed consent information that tells you the details on how your data will be used and how it will be de-identified so your individual identity is not attached to the records.

Enter your demographic data and complete surveys about life with MS. Currently there are four surveys available which took me about 20 minutes to complete after I registered. You may have completed similar surveys for your doctor or other research initiatives. Don’t worry about time, you can always take a break when you need to and come back to complete surveys later.

Share your electronic health records (EHRs), which can be as small as a single laboratory report or as complex as a complete medical history. No bit of data is too small or insignificant and you choose what to share. Detailed instructions are available, but you can always contact someone at iConquerMS™ for help if you have any questions or get stuck.

Submit your questions of what you think researchers should take a closer look at. (This is probably my favorite part.) The research committee, composed of people with MS and key scientists, will sort through our questions, formulate formal research queries, and design the tools to answer those questions.

Share your experiences with iConquerMS™ with everyone you know! We are aiming for more than 20,000 registered participants by next summer. It’s a huge number, I know, but only a fraction of the number of MS patients in the US. We need your help to spread the word and recruit others like yourself who want to help conquer MS.

Connect with others. Later in December, iConquerMS™ will launch a forum for MS patients to discuss any number of topics related to multiple sclerosis and research. You will also receive periodic updates from iConquerMS™ via email (you can always opt out of these) on data gathering and research interests.

Please Join Me Now at and Register Today!

Read this post in its entirety:
The Accelerated Cure Project Launches iConquerMS™, A Patient-Centered Research Initiative