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Living With Ms And Other Autoimmune Diseases
By: Janet Estes, HAP Member And Employee

A very dear friend of mine gave me the poem by Charles Swindoll called Attitude. I love the first sentence, "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on my life.” I have grown more certain of the truth in that statement with every auto-immune diagnosis I received.

Autoimmune disease #1 was thyroid disease. This led to my thyroid being removed at age19. I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease #2, diabetes, in 1990. Pernicious anemia (PA), autoimmune disease #3 followed in 1991. PA is caused by the impaired absorption of vitamin B-12, or you lack the ability to spread B12 through your body. Then autoimmune disease #4, multiple sclerosis (MS), came along in 1992. In 2008 MS affects approximately 400,000 people in the U.S., according to the MS Society. When that happened, my world slowed way down. I was no longer able to attend everything at my daughter’s school. At that time I was the president of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and was involved in everything. I received so much help and support from loved ones and that helped me get through it. Early on I found out the value of a good support system because diabetes and thyroid disease run in my family.

The MS diagnosis should’ve been harder, but with a wonderful husband and a supportive nine-year-old daughter I felt truly blessed. No one around me was negative. I wanted to be the old Janet again. MS really affected all areas of my health, my vision was impaired, I had nystagmus, (involuntary eye movement) or my eyes bounced in my head. I had little or no balance, so I used a cane. It even affected my hearing. MS overshadowed everything else. Fortunately I was immediately put on the first drug to come out for MS, Beta Seron. I was seeing Dr. Stanton Elias at Henry Ford Hospital. I was on that drug for several years, and for eight or nine years, I have been on Copaxone or another injectable drug for my type of MS. I started out with a cane and today I am without the cane and I work full time and am thankful for every day.

I still wanted to be active and swimming was the best thing for me back then and still is now. Feeling overheated is a problem for a lot of MS patients. I started exercising at the local public pool every night. I met another MS patient there and she had an idea to start an MS swim group. In 1993, we presented it to the Livonia YMCA Administration. The MS swim group is still in operation today at the Livonia YMCA. They are a wonderful group and I am still a member and get the monthly newsletters. The group meets every Friday to swim and then they have a one hour fellowship meeting. I can’t attend right now, but I know they are there if I need them. I take a swimnastics class at a local college in the evening, twice a week to so I can keep exercising and not get over-heated.

As in any aspect of life, it is important to maintain a good sense of humor so I try to laugh a lot. Good friends and family is what everyone needs and my attitude is that MS came for a visit but it really isn’t welcome. The occasional symptom has popped up, but you learn to deal with it. My life has been fuller for the people I have met with MS and those that work with MS patients. I believe it has given me an understanding that I may never have had otherwise. It is hard for me to look at much in a negative way. My mother always told me that there was something positive in everything. I am certain she is right.

Of Special Interest:   Heart Walk   Sister to Sister   Henry Ford Women's Seminars
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