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I love it that Feb. 29 is Rare Disease Day in 2020. Leap day itself is a rarity, a gift of 24 more hours this year to enjoy at the whims of date-keepers. Who couldn’t use another day?
I gladly live those bonus hours with multiple sclerosis (MS). It’s considered a rare disease, though I find that hard to imagine. I live in the Pacific Northwest, an MS “cluster” region.
Listen, I know so many with MS these days. When I disclose my MS to a stranger, the frequent reply is, “Hey, I know someone with MS!”
Am I rare? Maybe, maybe not.
The Pacific Northwest is hardly the only MS cluster. Most occur in locations far from the equator. Research continues to map a higher prevalence of MS in Scandinavian countries, Ireland, Canada, and other northern countries.
What’s rare about MS?
For all the presence of MS in my community, many people still don’t know anything about it. Awareness, to me, is unfortunately rare in an MS cluster. It’s not as if the nonprofits, hospitals, and patient groups aren’t working overtime to educate the community.
I suspect a social disinterest in any chronic illness is at the root of the problem. Not just here, but everywhere. I don’t think it’s intentional, but rather a reflection of our cultural tendency to dismiss, ignore, or look away when confronted with the human face of chronic illness.
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