Celebrating the legacy of MS columnist Beth Shorthouse-Ullah

Beth confronted unimaginable challenges with laughter and grace

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by BioNews Staff |

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My name is Dave and I’m Beth Shorthouse-Ullah’s husband. We had spoken about the possibility of writing a column that looks at the experiences of partners of people who have multiple sclerosis (MS). But instead of sharing a thought-provoking piece from another perspective, today I sadly announce that Beth passed away from acute liver failure on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the age of 32.

Beth loved writing this column more than I can put into words. She was so inspired to write about her MS experience, and helping just a single person filled her with indescribable pride.

To express who she is, I thought I’d share a couple of stories from our holiday together in Portugal for a friend’s wedding last May.

The wedding was held in an incredible old monastery outside of Lisbon. It wasn’t the most accessible of places, but the most beautiful locations tend not to be. We had a fantastic day celebrating our friends’ wedding. However, it was very hot, which meant that we had to have measures in place to avoid any MS-related issues such as incontinence.

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Most of the day went by without a problem until about 10 p.m., when we had a crisis because she’d run out of incontinence pants. We had to leave early, which was disappointing. But what happened next shows the measure of Beth.

She could have dropped her head and been upset that we’d miss part of the wedding. Instead, she changed the narrative: The night was not going to end this way.

We returned to the villa and jumped — with our wedding clothes on — into the freezing cold, unheated pool. Now the night will be remembered for our laughter at how we had jumped into the pool with our clothes on. Simple moral here: If you’re disappointed with something, change the narrative.

A few days later, we visited Lisbon’s seafront. We all wanted to take a yacht out to sea, but Beth was understandably nervous. In fact, she changed her mind two or three times; after all, waves and uneasy walking do not make good bedfellows with MS. My brother and I joked with her that being on a boat might help improve her walking!

Ignoring her own concerns, Beth persevered and managed to get on the boat. She sat comfortably and talked the captain’s ear off about the joys of sailing, while my brother and I sunbathed.

As we neared the end of our trip, the captain asked if any of us wanted to man the helm. None of us wanted to, because we were too busy sunbathing — except for Beth. She struggled to stand up, but showed real determination in controlling the boat.

We were plodding along, nice and gently, when the captain told Beth to gently steer to the right. Seeing that my brother and I were about to stand up, and sensing an opportunity for payback, her mischievous side took over. The gentle turn became a hard pull, forcing the boat into a 360-degree spin that almost knocked us off our feet! This time the moral was for us: Don’t mess with Beth.

I hope you have enjoyed her column as much as she enjoyed being a columnist. Please always remember, you are not alone.

A note from Brad Dell, director of community content for this site’s publisher, BioNews:

We are, of course, saddened by Beth’s passing. She was a delight to all who worked with her because she was unceasingly cheerful and eager to grow. As fellow MS columnist Jenn Powell wrote upon hearing of her passing, “Beth combined her intellect, wit, and heart to write beautifully poignant pieces about difficult topics. Her narrative was like a hand to hold, and her words gave us silent courage. While we endured different things, I felt her guidance in every column.”

Even amid severe symptom progression, she regularly checked in with our team to say how excited she was to eventually return to writing. Knowing this excitement, her absence is felt all the more.

Following are reader comments handpicked by fellow columnists that exemplify the importance of her column — and her spirit:

  • Alison McLachlan, in response to “MS Advocacy Gives Me Strength and Purpose“: “This has to be THE best article I have read on MS. I would like to thank you so much for writing in such a positive manner about a negative subject to every one of us, including myself, that it touches. You have definitely shone a flicker of light on my life; I hope that your situation is full of hope and flickers day and night.”
  • Nancy Rochelle, in response to “After Standing Still, Finding My Next Step“: “Hi, Beth. I find your columns so insightful. You have really helped me understand the complexities surrounding MS, not only mental challenges but physical ones, too, and how to navigate them. Thank you.”
  • Mark Mander, in response to “Grappling With the Sensory Overload That Can Come With MS“: “Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me once again realize that I am not alone in this journey.”
  • Susan, in response to “MS and Emotions: Pessimism vs. Realism in Life With Chronic Illness“: “Once again, your columns are always the ones I am drawn to read! Your analysis of the reasons why we may not be on top of others’ emotions is thought-provoking and rings true.”
  • Kerry Jones, in response to “The Visible and Invisible Reflections of MS“: “Hi, Beth. I rarely leave comments, but today your column resonates so deeply. … Thank you for such an honest article.”

Thank you, readers, for being a part of Beth’s writing journey.

Note: 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. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Betty Ann Vivian avatar

Betty Ann Vivian

So sorry for your loss and so sorry I didn't meet Beth but I appreciate Dave's memories! I was diagnosed with MS in 2006 and truthfully never considered how MS impacts those around us so this column meant alot! I try to stay positive and smile lots but I now know that we MSers can make an important difference! Stay well and thank you for telling Beth's story!

Gary Hendricks avatar

Gary Hendricks

To Dave and all the Bio News staff.

Our heart felt condolences go out to you, We will miss Beth's columns.

No matter how well you think you are prepared, it is still very difficult to lose one that is so loved.

May you be comforted by the faith that Beth is free from the constraints of her mortal, diseased body and look forward to the resurrection gift given to us by our Savior Jesus Christ.

Know that you will be greeted by her when you too reach the other side.

Mikala James avatar

Mikala James

My deepest condolences Dave, on the passing of your lovely and brilliant wife, Beth. When I was diagnosed 5 years ago it was columns like hers that kept my head above water. I saw a lot of myself in her and her writing, and it gave me the strength I needed to get up and get on with my life. She will be missed all over the world.

Jose J Hernandez avatar

Jose J Hernandez

To Dave, to all the Bio News staff, and all those who enjoyed and received information from Beth through her writings, my deepest condolences. Riches do not come from your harvest but from the seeds you plant. Beth planted so many seeds of hope in the hearts of all who personally met her or through her publications. The best we can do for her is to lift our spirits, get our bodies fitter, eat well, live a happy life, and help those who need it the most. My prayers to you Dave.


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