Challenges Facing Young MSers

While in Barcelona the topic of MS and Young Adults was discussed. It was interesting to me, as I am the youngest person I know with multiple sclerosis. I know some very inspirational people with MS who happen to be older than me, but I sometimes feel as if my concerns as a 26 year old are irrelevant to many of the people I know with MS. Maybe, because they already have established careers, are married, have bought their own house and achieved many of the things that I find I am holding myself back from. I'm sure there are people who are older who experience the same concerns as I do. This blog is for anyone who reads it and anyone who relates to it!

Aoife Kirwan
20 Mar 2014

As a twenty something, you're possibly taking some of the biggest steps and decisions of your life. You could be choosing to go to/back to/ continue college. You could be stepping from education into the jobs market. You could be deciding to start/add to a family. You could be buying your first house or moving out of home for the first time. These steps are not small for anyone. As a person with MS, I have experienced some of these steps and I have to admit, having MS has been a factor in decisions I have made and am likely to make in the future. On a fact sheet from the conference provided by Novartis, it states that only about 50% of people with MS will be employed 10 years after diagnosis. I am three years into my diagnosis and I am doing a post-grad.  After this I want to do a masters, so that will bring me to 6 years post-diagnosis, which would mean I have maybe 4 years to work before hitting this 50%? I don't think so! This is one of the factors I had to consider when deciding on a post-graduate. I decided to be practical and look at what the best option was for me, a 26 year old with MS who has no intention of leaving work at 33! So, all things considered I decided to go for psychotherapy, it seems to me to be the most interesting and 'future-proof' option of the possible careers I was interested in persuing. MS was a factor, it didn't stop me from doing anything, but it informed my choice.  

Having MS can have an affect on personal identity. For me it has, I sometimes feel like it is extra baggage to carry. I sometimes feel like I don't have as much fun as I used to. When I go out, more often than not I want to leave early in the night because I am too tired. Ideally I would need to stay in bed until about 3pm the day of the night out, get up, give a few hours to the day, get ready and have enough energy for the night, but that is unrealistic. It has an effect on my social life and sometimes people don't understand that my fatigue is more than just ordinary tiredness. MS has also affected what was once my favorite hobby… shopping! I used to love nothing better than going off to the shops for the day, now I see it as an absolute nightmare.  Queues, fitting rooms, waiting, walking, carrying bags… an hour in and I am out!! I get so tired that shopping has turned into something I absolutely dread! Closer to the summer I plan to blog about music festivals, I have some magic tricks on how to keep them an enjoyable experience even with MS.   When you are in the early stages of seeing someone, when do you tell them you have MS? How do you decide when it's the right time to have that conversation? If you say it too early will it be too much to soon, if you say it too late were you withholding it from them? Should you have told them earlier? It's a maze of a decision! I have a wonderful little boy, who was already in my life when the MS diagnosis arrived. Having MS does weigh on my mind when thinking about the future and the possibility of having more children. I have a responsibility to my little boy, I have to stay as well as possible for him as well as myself. If I decided to have another child I would have to stop my treatment, I would be at risk of relapse, I could give MS the chance to damage me. I don't even want to think about the possibility of MS having a hereditary link! I'm not saying I don't want to add to my family at some point in the future, but I feel there is so much for me to consider because of the fact that I have MS. Independence can also be an issue. According to another fact sheet from the conference, one third of those who do not receive or accept treatment may require a wheelchair within 20 years of diagnosis. Each to their own in the decision of drugs or no drugs. For me, I felt a little safer going on treatment, but I can see the reasons why people chose not to. With full mobility and being on treatment I see how my independence is affected. Fatigue is a big issue for me at times and when I am not able to do my basic everyday tasks, I have to rely on others to help me. I think one of the most important things you need when living with MS is a good support network. I am blessed when it comes to this. My family are always willing to help me out if I am having a day where I'm feeling a bit 'zonked'.   As a young person with MS, I do feel like it has a big influence on my decisions and life. However, as it has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion, these things might never happen. I might work until retirement age. I'm not necessarily missing out on anything when I go home early on a night out. I could add to my family and not relapse. I could never need a wheelchair. Anything is possible, nothing is predictable and for now I will embrace shopping online!   I mentioned earlier that I am the youngest person I know with MS, so it would be of huge interest to me, if you would comment with some of the things that affect or have affected your life as a young adult with MS. How does MS affect your decisions at this point in your life??