Snowbird Finds Solace in the Southwest
I was 47 years old when I was diagnosed with MS, a disease I knew nothing about. After learning about MS and its many symptoms, I realized my first MS attack had occurred when I was 33 years old, following a move from my native California to St. Louis, Missouri. My symptoms back in 1979 were severe fatigue and depression, which I attributed to stressful life situations at the time.
Then in 1993, tingling in my feet and both legs prompted me to see an orthopedic specialist. X-rays revealed arthritis but the rest of my spine was unremarkable. Then I called the doctor I’d seen in 1979 (who was not covered by my health insurance at the time). He reviewed my past chart and examined me, noting my change in gait and leg weakness. He suggested I might have MS and advised me to see a neurologist.
The neurologist ordered a number of tests but didn’t think it was MS. Optic neuritis diagnosed by my ophthalmologist sent me back to the neurologist who said my MRIs were negative for MS and ordered an HIV test. When that was negative, he ordered a spinal tap, which resulted in an excruciating headache. I was then referred to a pain specialist who recommended I find another neurologist.
An MS diagnosis was finally made when the spinal tap were evaluated and I saw a new neurologist at a different medical facility. The first thing this new doctor asked was, “What’s been going on in your life?” and he listened to me! He told me about the first medication for relapsing-remitting MS and I was added to the lottery for this new injectable drug, Betaseron. I am still a patient of my compassionate, understanding neurologist 22 years later.
In 2011, we purchased a winter home in Southern Arizona. After six months in the sunshine and low humidity, I told my neurologist I felt better than I had in more than 30 years. An MRI showed no sign of active MS and the majority of my symptoms were gone. I stopped taking Betaseron after 18 years but continued seeing the neurologist every six months and each of my MRIs have remained clear.
At 69, I have more energy than I can remember since college. I can’t say if taking Betaseron along with many hours of exercise and physical therapy, or if winters filled with sunshine, minimal humidity and lack of stress, or nutritional supplements for 30+ , or essential oils for 6 years has kept me stable but the Grace of God is definitely part of these wonderful four years of remission.
—L. Garrett , St. Louis, MO
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Please consult your physician about how to treat your symptoms.
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