Learning to Push Back Against My Relapsing MS [Sponsored Post]

Learning to Push Back Against My Relapsing MS [Sponsored Post]

Until a few years ago, I was living my dream. I was an all-star athlete, an accomplished shot-putter and had years of training as a Division I football player under my belt. You could put me on any field and my instincts to physically push back against my opponent as an offensive lineman would instantly activate. I could push, shove, block, and hit; and do it all over again. It was what I knew how to do best and anything felt possible when I was on the field. And with college graduation on the horizon, the years of hard work, the endless early morning practices and weight-training sessions were about to pay off, as I was on my way to becoming an Olympic hopeful. And then, in spite of my certainty about where my life was headed, everything changed. One day after practice in 2006, I complained to my team doctor about feeling odd sensations running through my legs, convinced I had pinched my sciatic nerve. You see, football players aren’t strangers to aches and pains, particularly after hours of pushing and blocking charging defensive linemen. Numbness, tingling and pain were all part of the sport.

But what started as a “simple” football injury and precautionary MRI quite suddenly became a terrifying new reality, a jarring, downward spiral off the road I was heading: a diagnosis from my doctor of relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS). The next few months were a blur. After realizing I could never train the way I used to in football, or pursue my aspirations of heading to the U.S. Olympics as a shot-putter, I became depressed and lost focus in my life.

For the first time, I didn’t feel strong. RMS was a challenge that was much harder to push and block than my opponents on the football field; it attacked me at all angles of my life. And in the first few months after my diagnosis, my strength and sense of self slipped away. Eventually, my instinct to fight my opponent, particularly one who wanted to physically and emotionally weaken me, dissipated.

LEMTRADA is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Because of its risks, LEMTRADA is generally used in people who have tried 2 or more MS medicines that have not worked well enough. It is not known if LEMTRADA is safe and effective for use in children under 17 years of age.

SELECTED IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

LEMTRADA can cause serious side effects including autoimmune problems, infusion reactions, some kinds of cancers, thyroid problems, low blood counts (cytopenias), serious infections, and swelling of lung tissue (pneumonitis). Because of these risks, LEMTRADA is only available through a restricted program called the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Program.

Please see additional Important Safety Information below and full Prescribing Information/Medication Guide, including serious side effects.

Challenged to Push Back Against My RMS 

But it’s interesting how you can learn to push back, even in the darkest moments of your life.

I can attribute the change in my worldview to a friend’s little sister. She was 18 years old and had been paralyzed since the age of 9. After seeing how much I had been struggling with my RMS, she stepped in and became a new, extremely important coach in my life.

We didn’t review game films together, and she never ordered me to run any laps, but she became just as influential and motivating as any coach I had ever had on the football field. Most importantly, she dared me to do what I had always done as a football player—push back against my opponent.

She told me, “Jorge, you can do anything that an able-bodied person can do. So – let’s go scuba diving and dance on the ocean floor.”

I accepted her challenge.

For seven days, two people for whom at times, mobility and normalcy felt impossible, dove 80 feet under water in Cozumel, Mexico and danced. Under the water, away from distractions and my worries, I watched my friend’s sister defy the impossible. I stared as her limbs, which were immobile in her daily life, swayed, curled and turned. Eighty feet beneath the waves, she found the ability to move. I knew she had achieved her goal—one many people had probably told her she couldn’t achieve due to her circumstances—by concentrating her efforts on each individual adjustment; her emotional strength had allowed her to overcome her physical limitations. After a week of diving, this epiphany helped me find strength and confidence in my life again.

Facing My RMS Head On

Armed with this newfound hope and the help of my friends and family, I decided it was time to push back against my RMS and face the disease head on. Like every athlete, I understood the importance of training, particularly as emotional strength would be much harder to achieve than physical strength, a trait that had always come second-nature to me on the field. Much like I had in my football days, I set a pre-season training schedule and took steps to help me achieve my physical and emotional goals.

Success results from many things. In my years as a football player, it came from one part talent and two parts practice. As I geared up to face my RMS, I remembered the years I spent in the gym and on the field weight-training, and studying plays. I pushed back against my RMS with the help of supportive loved ones, guidance from healthcare providers, and using several different RMS treatments over the years.

I knew I wanted a treatment that could help manage my disease. That’s why, with the blessing of my doctor, I decided to undergo an infusion therapy called LEMTRADA® (alemtuzumab) 12 mg IV for my RMS.

My Outlook on Life 

The biggest difference between when I was first diagnosed and where I am now is my outlook on life. Some days still feel like the toughest of football games, and my RMS is an opponent who is bigger, stronger and faster than me. It’s those moments that are most important to remind myself that the will to keep playing is the most important strength that I have, and I use it to help me create a new way forward.

You may not realize it, but everyone possesses the ability to push back. All it takes is the right mindset, a good coach and a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Want to read more stories like Jorge’s? Visit the Lemtrada.com website for real stories and perspectives from others living with relapsing MS.

 

INDICATION

LEMTRADA is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Because of its risks, LEMTRADA is generally used in people who have tried 2 or more MS medicines that have not worked well enough. It is not known if LEMTRADA is safe and effective for use in children under 17 years of age.

Do not receive LEMTRADA if you are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

LEMTRADA can cause serious side effects including:

Serious autoimmune problems: Some people receiving LEMTRADA develop a condition where the immune cells in your body attack other cells or organs in the body (autoimmunity), which can be serious and may cause death. Serious autoimmune problems may include:

  • Immune thrombocytopenia, which is when reduced platelet counts in your blood cause severe bleeding that, if not treated, may cause life-threatening problems. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: easy bruising; bleeding from a cut that is hard to stop; heavier menstrual periods than normal; bleeding from your gums or nose that is new or takes longer than usual to stop; small, scattered spots on your skin that are red, pink, or purple
  • Kidney problems called anti-glomerular basement membrane disease, which can, if untreated, lead to severe kidney damage, kidney failure that needs dialysis, a kidney transplant, or death. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: blood in the urine (red or tea-colored urine); swelling of legs or feet; coughing up blood

It is important for you to have blood and urine tests before you receive, while you are receiving and every month, for 4 years or longer, after you receive your last LEMTRADA infusion.

Serious infusion reactions: LEMTRADA can cause serious infusion reactions that may cause death. Serious infusion reactions may happen while you receive, or up to 24 hours or longer after you receive LEMTRADA.

  • You will receive your infusion at a healthcare facility with equipment and staff trained to manage infusion reactions, including serious allergic reactions, and urgent heart or breathing problems. You will be watched while you receive, and for 2 hours or longer after you receive, LEMTRADA. If a serious infusion reaction happens while you are receiving LEMTRADA, your infusion may be stopped.

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms of a serious infusion reaction during the infusion, and after you have left the healthcare facility:

  • swelling in your mouth or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • weakness
  • fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • chest pain
  • rash

To lower your chances of getting a serious infusion reaction, your healthcare provider will give you a medicine called corticosteroids before your first 3 infusions of a treatment course. You may also be given other medicines before or after the infusion to try to reduce your chances of having these reactions or to treat them after they happen.

Certain cancers: Receiving LEMTRADA may increase your chance of getting some kinds of cancers, including thyroid cancer, skin cancer (melanoma), and blood cancers called lymphoproliferative disorders and lymphoma. Call your healthcare provider if you have the following symptoms that may be a sign of thyroid cancer:

  • new lump
  • swelling in your neck
  • pain in front of neck
  • hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • trouble swallowing or breathing
  • cough that is not caused by a cold

Have your skin checked before you start receiving LEMTRADA and each year while you are receiving treatment to monitor for symptoms of skin cancer.

Because of risks of autoimmunity, infusion reactions, and some kinds of cancers, LEMTRADA is only available through a restricted program called the LEMTRADA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Program.

Thyroid problems: Some patients taking LEMTRADA may get an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Call your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms:

  • excessive sweating
  • unexplained weight loss
  • eye swelling
  • nervousness
  • fast heartbeat
  • unexplained weight gain
  • feeling cold
  • worsening tiredness
  • constipation

Low blood counts (cytopenias): LEMTRADA may cause a decrease in some types of blood cells. Some people with these low blood counts have increased infections. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of cytopenias such as:

  • weakness
  • chest pain
  • yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • dark urine
  • fast heartbeat

Serious infections: LEMTRADA may cause you to have a serious infection while you receive and after receiving a course of treatment. Serious infections may include:

  • Herpes viral infections. Some people taking LEMTRADA have an increased chance of getting herpes viral infections. Take any medicines as prescribed by your healthcare provider to reduce your chances of getting these infections.
  • Tuberculosis. Your healthcare provider should check you for tuberculosis before you receive LEMTRADA.
  • Hepatitis. People who are at high risk of, or are carriers of, hepatitis B (HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) may be at risk of irreversible liver damage.

These are not all the possible infections that could happen while on LEMTRADA. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have symptoms of a serious infection such as fever or swollen glands. Talk to your healthcare provider before you get vaccinations after receiving LEMTRADA. Certain vaccinations may increase your chances of getting infections.

Swelling of lung tissue (pneumonitis): Some people have had swelling of the lung tissue while receiving LEMTRADA. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • wheezing
  • chest pain or tightness
  • coughing up blood

Before receiving LEMTRADA, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • are taking a medicine called Campath® (alemtuzumab)
  • have bleeding, thyroid, or kidney problems
  • have HIV
  • have a recent history of infection
  • have received a live vaccine in the past 6 weeks before receiving LEMTRADA or plan to receive any live vaccines. Ask your healthcare provider if you are not sure if your vaccine is a live vaccine
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. LEMTRADA may harm your unborn baby.  You should use birth control while receiving LEMTRADA and for 4 months after your course of treatment
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. You and your healthcare provider should decide if you should receive LEMTRADA or breastfeed. You should not do both.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. LEMTRADA and other medicines may affect each other, causing side effects. Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take medicines that increase your chance of getting infections, including medicines used to treat cancer or to control your immune system.

The most common side effects of LEMTRADA include: 

  • rash
  • headache
  • thyroid problems
  • fever
  • swelling of your nose and throat
  • nausea
  • urinary tract infection
  • feeling tired
  • trouble sleeping
  • upper respiratory infection
  • herpes viral infection
  • hives
  • itching
  • fungal infection
  • joint pain
  • pain in your arms or legs
  • back pain
  • diarrhea
  • sinus infection
  • mouth pain or sore throat
  • tingling sensation
  • dizziness
  • stomach pain
  • sudden redness in face, neck, or chest
  • vomiting

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. These are not all the possible side effects of LEMTRADA.

You are encouraged to report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please see the full Prescribing Information, including Boxed WARNING and Medication Guide, for additional Important Safety Information.

©2017 Genzyme Corporation. All rights reserved. LEMTRADA registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. SAUS.LEMT.17.07.5315

 

The preceding article is content provided by our sponsor Sanofi Genzyme. The views and opinions expressed in the content above are not the views and opinions of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, LLC.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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