“Wear that Orange Ribbon!”
August 29, 2012
Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t discriminate when it comes to who gets it. The playing field is equal.
It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, Asian, or Native American. Doesn’t matter if you are male or female, though females are 2-3 times more likely to have MS. Doesn’t matter which continent you live on, though it is more prevalent in northern latitudes. Doesn’t matter if you are young or old, though the onset is usually between the ages of twenty and fifty. And it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor.
Even when the statistics reflect a higher percentage of occurrences in certain groups, there are still no exceptions. A person living in the tropics or a child can still develop MS.
When it comes to the types of symptoms one gets, the course of the disease, the duration of a relapse, or the amount of disability one experiences, MS doesn’t discriminate there either. No two people have the same identical case; no two people respond to treatments equally.
What is not equal is the amount of support an MSer can get depending on their financial situation. Now, before I go on, I want to make myself clear: MS as an illness is just as difficult and interfering to live with whether a person is rich or poor.
Now, having said that, here’s where inequality exists.
I am an “ordinary” person, like most persons with MS. Middle-to-low income. When my disability progressed, I had to quit my job. We were lucky to have enough money to pay bills every month, but there were no extras. Before my husband retired, I had to take care of our son, house, cooking, shopping, washing, paying bills, tax preparation, and so forth as best as I could. Now that he is retired, I am still lucky in that he helps me with all of these chores; however, we are on fixed income and each year the dollar gets squeezed more and more.
Now I don’t begrudge a person of wealthier means. They are still suffering too, and it is not anyone’s fault that they are richer than me. It’s just that I have the added stress and physical fatigue of having to do these things on my own. Of course I have the support of family and friends who lend a hand to do these things. And mental and emotional support available through MS organizations and peers.
But many times it is not enough to get through each day’s to-do list. Too often there is no safety net or easy lifeline when a job loss occurs or health insurance is lost.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say MS is harder on the “ordinary” person. The additional physical, mental, and emotional stress of an ordinary person has a negative effect on our MS both in the short and long term, probably causing our MS to be worse overall.
So, what’s my point? The point is that I want everyone to be educated about what MS is and does to an ordinary person. There are famous people in the spotlight who have MS and are creating awareness—like Montel Williams, Ann Romney, Jack Osborn. But their image doesn’t realistically project MS in the sense of the majority of us.
Many of us have been told “You look so good”, but these celebrities look too good. Again, through no fault of their own, the way media presents them causes misconceptions. So now there are two stereotypes at opposite ends of the spectrum: the dilapidated person in a wheelchair and the normal looking person so refreshed, energized and high-spirited.
The people in the middle, like the middle class, need to get into center stage for once. The “ordinary” person with MS needs a voice and attention on a national level. We have fallen through the cracks.
If someone wears a pink ribbon, everyone knows what that stands for. If it is an orange ribbon, most people wouldn’t have a clue what it stands for. The MS community needs celebrities with MS like Montel Williams to wear an orange ribbon everyday to increase awareness. The MS community also needs to wear an orange ribbon to build an identity on a daily basis. This includes the top brass of all MS Associations as well as their employees and volunteers.
But, in addition to awareness, I believe everyone needs a basic understanding of what MS really is:
MS is an unpredictable, invisible, interfering, often disabling neurological disorder that has no cure and isn’t fatal or contagious. One that impacts millions of people, lasts a lifetime, and has immense costs associated with it for every citizen in this country.
If that happens, more support for research, financial assistance, social security disability and other things will happen for multiple sclerosis.
Somehow, we ordinary people with MS who are also the majority have to band together and make this happen. Plus we need advocates at the national level as well.
So please put on your orange ribbon and spread the word!