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Tackle MS With Positive Thought

Health activist Nancy Davis takes on multiple sclerosis.

Make Your Health Your Job continued...

Always get a second opinion, she stresses. Also, she says, always bring someone to the doctor's visits and the hospital with you. "It's really important to have someone there for you because when you are sick you don't hear things correctly. Sometimes, you always hear the best and sometimes you always hear the worst."

For Davis, her support team comprises a variety of people. "Sometimes it's my husband and sometimes it's my few best friends who are always there for me," she says.

Another helpful strategy about living with chronic illness is to always carry a medical identification card. "Every time I would go out at night, I would take my credit card, driver's license, AAA card, and my insurance card, but I never had a card that said 'I am allergic to this,' 'I have this,' and/or 'If I die I want to be an organ donor,'" she says.

"You can't speak for yourself in a medical crisis," she says. "I think everyone should have one so that the emergency medical services know who to contact in case of an emergency." Options include bracelets, pendants, and ID cards that can be customized with your specific health information.

Diagnosis as a Wake-Up Call

Another way to move forward after receiving a diagnosis of a chronic illness is to embrace change and face fear, she says. "Life before disease is a different story," she says. "The things that mattered before don't matter anymore. Nothing matters when you don't have your health."

Davis says her diagnosis made her turn her life inside out and upside down. She divorced her husband because he was "incredibly negative" and her deteriorating marriage was one of the biggest stressors in her life. Stress can exacerbate MS and other chronic diseases.

But she has now been remarried for 12 years to an extremely supportive man and recently gave birth to twin girls, Isabella and Miranda. Her oldest three sons, now ages 21, 23, and 25, are also extremely supportive.

"I didn't set out to have MS. No one picks a disease, it picks you," she says. But "MS gave me a very different level of appreciation. I took a lot of things for granted before MS; I didn't realize how full my glass was." Now, "when I get out of bed and put my feet on the ground and can feel them, I think, 'this is unbelievable. I am really lucky at least for today.'"

Meeting Flares Head-On

MS tends to involve periods of low to no disease activity known as remissions and periods of exacerbations of disease called flares.

"The second I feel things coming on, I take charge very quickly," Davis says. "I don't kid myself and think things will just go away. You have to know your body. No doctor knows you as well as you know yourself, so you must take action as soon as something happened. Sometimes I sail along with no attacks for years and when I have one I am insulted, but it is a wake-up call, and it makes me realize if I am not good to myself, I am not good to anyone else."

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