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Tackle MS With Positive Thought

Health activist Nancy Davis takes on multiple sclerosis.
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Meeting Flares Head-On continued...

She says being good to herself involves leading a semi-puritan lifestyle.

"I believe the best thing that I do for myself is that I never drink or smoke; I don't drink caffeine; I take lots of vitamins, exercise, and lead a healthy lifestyle," she says. "I can't afford to get a flu or a fever because it kicks off an attack that can last for five months. I get the proper amount of rest and try not to take on things I can't handle."

Luckily, she can handle a lot as Davis' charitable work has raised $22 million for MS research. As the director of the The Nancy Davis Foundation for MS, Davis holds an annual Race to Erase MS gala, which raises more than $2.7 million in a single evening.

"Charity work is the most gratifying thing that I can do," she says. "Giving people the ability to help find cures, educative themselves, [and] put them with the right doctor is the final step in making health come full circle."

The 'Aha' Moment

Davis also spearheads the Center Without Walls, a selected network of the nation's top seven MS research centers, which supports collaboration on the cutting-edge of innovative research programs and therapeutic approaches to eradicate MS.

"When I was first diagnosed, I got many second opinions and I found that all these doctors were doing similar research, yet they thought they were the only ones doing it," she says. "That's when a lightbulb went off in my head."

Her brainchild was the Center Without Walls. "We never spent money on mortar and bricks," she says. "It's all about doctors collaborating via a database so they never duplicate each other's research."

They also learn from what is going on in each other's lab. For example, "maybe a drug is being given in doses that are too high or too low or has a terrible side effect if it's given with something else," she says. Such collaboration can nip such issues in the bud.

Work such as Davis' has helped changed the landscape of treatment for MS. When she was first diagnosed, there were no treatments for MS. Now, there are five drugs to help reduce future disease activity. The FDA is currently considering reintroducing a sixth drug, Tysabri. The drug was pulled last year after it was linked to a rare brain disease that caused the death of two patients.

"For the person being diagnosed today, it is such a different landscape," she says. "So much is happening and there are things to do to treat various symptoms. There has got to be a cure in my lifetime. I really feel it coming."

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Reviewed on March 27, 2006
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