MonSter School 101: Newly Diagnosed

Lisa A. McCombs
4 min readJan 9, 2023
Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

So, you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. You’re scared, confused, and probably panicky, which is understandable.

In my case, I had NO IDEA what multiple sclerosis meant. Was that the Jerry Lewis phone marathon thingy I remember interrupting television watching? Didn’t some guy named Lou Gehrig have that?

Talk about starting from ground zero!

I was diagnosed six months after giving birth to my only child. I was 41 years old. The emergency room doctors initially treated my symptoms as a stroke. After being admitted to the reputable teaching hospital nearby, I was prodded, pinched, probed, and basically treated as a glorified science project.

In retrospect, that is an accurate description of the MonSter. Years later, I am still a science project and probably will always be.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body is basically attacking the protective nerve covering (myelin) which in turn interrupts communication between the brain and the body. The result? Permanent nerve damage.

I know none of this is setting your mind at ease, but it is necessary to arm yourself with some basic knowledge to keep the MonSter under control.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is my go-to resource for all things multiple sclerosis. If they cannot answer your question, they will find a good avenue to follow.

There are four types of multiple sclerosis. Try to avoid getting all wrapped up in the descriptions. Once again, I offer this as necessary background knowledge.

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) — 85 percent of people with MS are initially diagnosed with this form of the disease. It is defined by discrete episodes of new neurologic symptoms, called relapses, attacks, or flare-ups. These relapses are a result of new inflammatory lesions within the CNS. This is followed by periods with few or no symptoms, known as remission. Periods of remission can last months or years.