Stories and connections emphasized for this year’s MS Awareness Month

'MS Community Spotlight' series to highlight individual stories of living with MS

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by Mary Chapman |

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Multiple hands come together in a circle in this hands-in illustration.

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative disease thought to affect more than 1.8 million people globally, can impact many aspects of daily life. So for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, observed each March, this year’s focus is on the MS experience and the importance of social connections.

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week begins on March 10. World MS Day will follow on May 30.

While every patient journey is different, the autoimmune disorder often causes a host of common physical problems, such as walking difficulties, pain, and fatigue. Those living with MS also may face cognitive impairment, and emotional challenges such as depression and anxiety. Disease awareness is central to furthering MS recognition, and improving diagnoses and care.

Throughout March, Multiple Sclerosis News Today is running a daily series called “MS Community Spotlight.” Each day, the series will feature individuals impacted by MS — a patient, caregiver, or healthcare provider — who have been invited to “share your MS story,” said Jessica Barrale Cao, director of social media at BioNews Inc., which publishes this website.

The stories, which will appear on Facebook, X, Instagram, and Pinterest with the hashtag #MSSpotlight, will cover a broad range of topics, from diagnosis and treatment to turning points in care. They all will tell of challenges and perseverances in the MS experience.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today has a handful of MS patients writing regularly, but they’re only a drop in the pool of voices that deserve to be heard,” said Brad Dell, director of community content for BioNews. “[This] is our opportunity to amplify those voices and provide a more diverse picture of what the patient, caregiver, and specialist community really wants the world to know about life with MS.”

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MSAA offering free resources focused on mental health this March

Throughout March, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) has scheduled events, all under the theme “Improving Lives Through Supportive Connections.” Its campaign offers a number of free educational programs that underscore the role of social interactions and support in living well with MS.

“In recognition of MS Awareness Month, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is pleased to offer several free resources focused on mental health, including the importance of forming meaningful and supportive connections,” Gina Ross Murdoch, MSAA president and CEO, said in an emailed statement.

“Perfectly aligned with our urgent mission of Improving Lives Today, these educational programs emphasize the significance of making mental health a priority. Encompassing vital topics, such as staying connected with others, our activities taking place during MS Awareness Month provide a wealth of information, along with useful strategies,” she added.

In addition to blog posts throughout the month, the organization is offering a three-episode podcast miniseries titled “Finding Joy in the Process: Managing Health in the MS Journey” featuring Amy B. Sullivan, director of behavioral medicine and research at the Mellen Center for MS, and a member of the MSAA’s Healthcare Advisory Council.

Episodes will be released weekly, with the first one focused on mental health and MS. A subsequent presentation will highlight the power of positive thinking, and the final episode will explore social interactions and connections.

In recognition of MS Awareness Month, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is pleased to offer several free resources focused on mental health, including the importance of forming meaningful and supportive connections.

The MSAA also will host an hourlong webinar at 8 p.m. ET March 25 titled “Elevating Your Well-Being: A Conversation About Multiple Sclerosis and Mental Health.” The presentation will feature neurologist and MS specialist Barry A. Hendin, MD, and psychiatrist Holly M. Hendin, MD, PhD.

In addition, the organization is presenting its 2024 Art Showcase, now in its 15th year. The program honors inspirational artwork and shares the stories of individuals living with MS. Skill level is not a factor in the artworks’ selection. Instead, the program provides an opportunity for adults with MS nationwide to show their original works in a range of media, including photography and graphic design. It also seeks to encourage artists whose disease symptoms may be challenging.

“We are … excited to share MSAA’s online Art Showcase, highlighting the contributions that art makes to the lives of so many with MS — both for those who derive much pleasure and fulfillment through creating artwork, as well as for those who simply enjoy viewing these beautiful pieces,” Murdoch said.

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Patient artwork on display online for MS Awareness Month

While the creations and narratives of more than 70 artists will debut on the MSAA website during MS Awareness Month, the works will be displayed year-round. In addition, one artist and his or her work will be showcased monthly throughout the year.

One 2024 featured artist is Nancy Garcia of Chicago Heights, Illinois, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 30 years ago. Most of her works are in ink or watercolor.

“Painting and drawing have become a meditation and a place where my imagination can soar,” Garcia states on an Art Showcase webpage. “I find most of my inspiration in nature and simple things: laundry on the line, a lovingly prepared cup of tea — things that those of us with MS know all too well should not be taken for granted.”

A pair of MSAA virtual fundraising events are set for the organization’s Improving Lives Through Art spring series, which have participation fees. The events highlight the therapeutic benefits of art expression and connection, and enable the MS community to participate in a creative experience remotely.

On March 12, from 7-8:30 p.m. ET, a virtual art tour will feature art enthusiast and docent Joe Caliva. A virtual “paint-along” will take place on March 26, from 7-9 p.m. ET, led by Art Showcase artist Hannah Garrison.

To mark MS Awareness Week, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) is again inviting participation in #MyMSMoment. Patients and others are invited to create and share a message about their everyday MS journey, along with a photo of themselves, using a customizable NMSS tool. The organization may include the messages and images in its online gallery.

In one patient posting, the message reads, “My MS journey was confusing, frustrating, and took a very long time.” Another one states, “My shifting MS symptoms include brain fog, double vision, and chronic pain.”

“Stories of life with multiple sclerosis are told through the everyday moments people with MS experience,” Daphne Mack, NMSS’s senior manager of PR/Media, said in an email.

In a call to all those impacted by multiple sclerosis, Mack adds: “The National MS Society invites you to raise MS awareness by creating and sharing your MS Moment.”