DOUGLAS S. STUART, MD: Talking about MS is difficult, especially when you're new to the disease. There's a lot of misunderstanding about what MS is in the community. I think many people that we know believe it to be a uniformly disabling or maybe even a fatal diagnosis. That's not the case. This may even have been what you thought before you got the disease.
But MS is not always a disabling illness. But it is often a difficult illness. And I think you do have to decide who you're going to share with and what you're going to share. There are a number of people to consider. There are co-workers. There are family members. There are friends. And you have to decide who you're going to disclose this very important, but personal information with.
Many of the symptoms of MS are silent symptoms. You can't see pain. You can't appreciate fatigue. These are symptoms that may be very disabling to you, but that are not outwardly visible to those around you. And so I think giving them some kind of understanding that this is a disease that's likely to give you problems from time to time, very randomly, and sometimes you're not going to look very sick, even though you're not feeling well at all--
I think going it alone is a very difficult road. And I think that everyone with MS needs to start to circle a care of community around themselves so that they do have someone to talk to, they do have someone they can count on should they need to be driven to a doctor's appointment or to an MRI appointment, just someone to share some of the burden of dealing with this disease. I don't want any of my patients to go it alone.