It's MS Awareness Week 2010, and the theme this year is "The Right to a Full Life". As the MS Society website explains:
"Although many people have heard of MS, few people understand the complex, unpredictable, and potentially debilitating effects of the UK’s most common neurological condition affecting young adults.
'The Right to a Full Life' is the theme for this year's Week. Alongside raising general awareness about MS we’ll also be explaining how people can join our fight to help those affected by MS gain the healthcare, independence and support they deserve to lead a full life"
There are lots of misconceptions about multiple sclerosis, and in their ignorance, people tend to assume the worst when they hear that someone has MS.... that it's a death sentence, that you are certain to end up in a wheelchair. Think about the coverage of Debbie Purdy's courtcase to win the right to die: is that your image of MS? that you become so debilitatingly disabled that you only want to die? Only this week, I received word from our travel agent that South Africa Airlines were going to have a wheelchair ready for me at the airport on Saturday, and that they have arranged for special access onto the plane. All this because I had to declare my medical condition and the fact that I will be carrying needles onto the plane when I booked the ticket. It's not really SAA's fault that they have assumed the worst about my condition, because MS describes a multitude of possible outcomes: I'm fit enough to run a half marathon, but plenty of other people with MS aren't so fortunate. Rather than spend time worrying about it, I'll simply turn up at the gate this weekend and laugh in the face of their wheelchair, but it does rather highlight the issue that multiple sclerosis is a disease with a thousand faces and one that affects everyone differently.
I'm not a big fan of U2, but this video - made by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) for World MS Day last year and which I think I've posted before - covers it quite nicely, I thought.... especially that whirlwind of emotions you experience when you're first diagnosed.
If MS Awareness Week helps even a few people have a better understanding of the condition, then it's surely been well worthwhile.
I'm not here to lecture anyone (not about this, anyway), but if you find yourself at a loose end this week, then do go and have a look at the excellent MS page on wikipedia. It's not a barrel of laughs having MS, but neither is it necessarily the end of the world. The more people know that, the better.