(BPT) – More than 20 years ago, as Jennifer Digmann focused on completing her coursework and graduating from college, she began experiencing numbness in her hands and feet and eventually double vision.
After several visits to her primary care doctor, an ophthalmologist and finally a neurologist, she received the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis (MS).
Today, Jennifer lives with a progressive form of MS, a chronic disease that often strikes in the prime of life, has no cure and is the leading cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults. Progressive forms of MS are the most debilitating. Like others who are affected, Jennifer’s symptoms have continued to worsen over time and her level of disability has increased.
Approximately 400,000 people in the U.S. are living with MS, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. Up to 15 percent are diagnosed with a progressive form of the disease (called Primary Progressive MS), and the majority of those diagnosed with Relapsing MS will transition to a progressive form later in life, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
For Jennifer, handling her sadness and fear and accepting her diagnosis was almost as challenging as her symptoms. People living with progressive forms of MS tend to experience more difficulties with walking and remaining in the workforce, and they require more assistance with everyday activities, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Progressive forms of MS remain frustratingly difficult to treat, primarily because doctors do not fully understand why the disease progresses. Also, many clinical trials for new medicines have been unsuccessful. More research is needed to better understand the underlying biology driving this condition, as well as to develop additional treatment options.
On March 28, 2018, the first ever Progressive MS Day will be celebrated by several MS advocacy groups and state governments around the country. This annual day of awareness was created with the goal of recognizing people living with progressive forms of MS, offering support, highlighting resources, programs and services, and, most importantly, calling for further research to advance their care and reduce disability.
Jennifer and her husband, Dan, who himself lives with Relapsing MS, count themselves among the most enthusiastic supporters of Progressive MS Day. As a couple, the Digmanns have dedicated their lives to inspiring and helping others living with MS by sharing their own experiences and perspectives through their blog and radio show.
“My life is not perfect always, but it’s pretty darn good. This disease, my multiple sclerosis, doesn’t hold me back,” says Jennifer.
Seeing the challenges that Jennifer faces with her condition has made Dan excited about the upcoming Progressive MS Day. “Finally, there’s something for people with the progressive forms of MS. Now, hopefully, that opens the door for more awareness and resources, and that’s why a day like this is pivotal,” says Dan.
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