Published on July 11th, 2017 | by David Morales0
Health Watch: Reimagine life with chronic disease
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. It impacts 2.3 million people worldwide, of which 85 percent are initially diagnosed with relapsing MS. Having a chronic disease like relapsing MS present some unique challenges when doing everyday tasks, complicating the things that we love. That is why Chef Ben Ford speaks on his own personal experiences to MS and his involvement with Reimagine MySelf™ – a program that encourages people living with relapsing MS to reimagine life with the disease through small but impactful changes. Ford is a culinary expert who shares stories of his mother’s journey with MS on ReimagineMySelf.com. Now he joins The Hype magazine with a health care professional to discuss MS and what you can do to help the cause.
What is Relapsing MS?
The disease itself is an autoimmune disease which means it’s your own immune system that attacks nerves or coding on the nerves in the brain and spinal cord and along the optic tracts. When that coding is damaged or removed, nerve impulses are less able to get through to the rest of the body and that causes neurologic symptoms like numbness, tingling, weakness, difficulty walking, vision disturbance, heat sensitivity and fatigue. These symptoms usually come up in flare up fashion, so the person will have normal neurologic function for a while and then have a flare-up of neurologic dysfunction that lasts for a few days to several weeks. They can either completely recover from that relapse or be left with some residual neurologic dysfunction over time and we call that progression and disability as those neurologic symptoms continue to accumulate. It affects about 2.3 million people in the world usually more women than men. European Caucasians of Northern European descent certainly have a higher incidence of MS but it has been found in many different ethnicities.
What are the symptoms?
There is a lot of different symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis particularly numbness and tingling in different areas of the body. Usually it’s one sided and not a generalized numbness or tingling. Those are hallmark symptoms of MS. There’s also weakness gait disturbance, double loss or blurred vision can also occur. Some different pain syndromes and difficulty with coordination tremors and fine motor movements can definitely be affected.
Chef Ben Ford You have a personal connection to MS – tell us about that.
I grew up with a mother who was showing symptoms of MS when I was a preteen and we went through the progressions of her trying to get diagnosed fully and didn’t really happen until I was in college. She was a huge entertainer and loved to cook and entertain and the household was usually full of friends and family and kids for days at a time. So that was a big part of her life and trying to help her to make those small but impactful changes that she could make in the kitchen was a big challenge for us and something that we learned along the way as we discovered it. But it’s something that she really sustained, really promoted and prolonged her career as sort of a cook and entertainer. She’s in her mid 70s now so she may have put those years behind her but she definitely laid some foundations while she was doing it.
Many people with Relapsing MS enjoy cooking and entertaining, especially during the summer months. Can you share some advice and tips?
Absolutely, you know I think it’s really about those small that impactful changes that you can make in your life. We’re in summertime right so you know I think it’s about awareness and really looking at sort of the new reality. Backyard grilling is a great way to entertain when you have friends and family that can be a part of it. I mean taking on and tackling a meal for you know dozen people, eight people and anything like that can be challenging living with MS. So, the idea of moving into the backyard and having a servant contributing having that contributing factor where everyone’s involved in the grilling.
You still have a great time and you know it can’t it does have to be too much of a hardship so that would be like one example. There’s lots of other issues with dexterity and things like that around the grill as well. Heat issues you need to be concerned about during the summertime. It’s living with MS. But those are little things. We have a website that I’m adding content to all the time. There other experts that either affected by MS or they have friends and family who have been affected by it and they’re all contributing to this Reimagine Myself campaign. The place to really go for all this information is the website reimaginemyself.com