Diagnosed in the late 1990s, Alicia had “a bumpy ride” in the beginning. But over the years, and with help from the Waddell Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Dr. Aram Zabeti, the center’s Medical Director, she manages her disease with a calm expertise. She has intermittent MS, which means that her symptoms come and go.
She takes Copaxone, an immunomodulator drug to reduce the frequency of relapses. She eats healthfully, gets regular exercise and is so fit that she has run the Flying Pig Marathon in less than six hours.
“Accepting the diagnosis of MS requires a complete lifestyle change – though not necessarily one that is limited,” Alicia says. “We just need to do things differently than everyone else. I’m not symptom free. I have some permanent exacerbations. But I’m not significantly debilitated.
“I’m aware of my disorder and disease and I take care of myself. It’s like having diabetes: you know that you have to eat in a certain way. You have a specific regimen that you have to follow. As long as I manage it, it doesn’t manage me.”
In her earlier career as a technical sales specialist, Alicia traveled throughout the Midwest, providing solutions to her customers and helping them meet their needs. “I’m a problem solver,” Alicia says.
It’s an approach she applies to everything she does. With help from her trainer, she approached the 2008 marathon “very cautiously” with her MS, but with determination. Her first pregnancy also went so smoothly that all of her MS symptoms vanished during that time. “It was like a magic wand,” Alicia recalls.
The quest for baby No. 2 proved more challenging, however, and it underscored the complexities of multiple sclerosis. “While we were trying to conceive a second child, I struggled with several exacerbations because I was on and off my medication in hopes of getting pregnant,” Alicia recalls.
Her luck changed not long after the arrival, in 2013, of Dr. Zabeti, who takes an integrated, whole-body approach to health care. Under Dr. Zabeti’s guidance, Alicia discontinued her regular injections of Rebif and began taking Copaxone. Not long after, she discovered she was pregnant.
“I credit my second pregnancy to several conversations I had with Dr. Zabeti and to thinking more clearly about my medical commitment,” Alicia says. “We were blessed with a miracle. Now he’s a newborn.”
People affected by MS need care from a team that specializes in the condition, Alicia says. “It’s a dynamic disorder; new information is coming out monthly. All individuals with MS should demand that they be taken care of by a specialist. All should have access to a university research center like the Waddell Center. ”
Alicia has encouraging words for others who face the challenges of multiple sclerosis. “MS is not a death sentence,” she says. “You need to explore your options, look for people who will support you. More things are possible than you realize. Don’t take no for an answer!”
* * *
Hope Story Disclaimer – This story describes an individual patient’s experience. Because every person is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Outcomes are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.