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MS is not Invisible Iqaluit NU

Chantal Leslie never gets tired of hearing how young she looks. At 31 years of age, physically active and a non-smoker, she looks more like someone i ...

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MS is not Invisible

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(NC)-Chantal Leslie never gets tired of hearing how young she looks. At 31 years of age, physically active and a non-smoker, she looks more like someone in her mid 20s.

But don't tell her that she looks good - at least not for someone who has multiple sclerosis (MS).

Chantal is one of more than 55 thousand Canadians living with MS. She experienced her first symptoms over ten years ago and has always been frustrated when people make generalizations about what it's like to have the disease.

Exactly what do patients with MS look like? For starters, few people know that the majority of patients with MS never require scooters or wheelchairs, or use them only for a short period. Although often hard to spot, symptoms of the disease are real enough, including extreme fatigue, vision problems, spasticity or complete paralysis.

It would be hard to put a face on MS for the simple reason that symptoms vary so much from patient to patient. This makes MS difficult to diagnose and it might also be why there isn't a "one size fits all" approach to treatment.

Although Chantal's symptoms are now well managed with treatment, she wasn't always optimistic about her outlook.

"I struggled for years with treatments that were hard to tolerate and just didn't work for me," commented Leslie. "My advice for people recently diagnosed is to keep on trying, don't settle, and don't take no for an answer. The key to beating the MS stereotype is to find what works for you."

In Canada, people living with MS should have reimbursement for all treatment options. Chantal was able to access treatment through her private health coverage; however, all MS patients should have expanded public coverage for all Health Canada authorized options.

Make yourself heard

If you or someone you care for is affected by MS, there is something you can do. Take the time to lean more about MS, policy issues and what role you can play as an advocate.

Show Canada that you don't think MS is invisible by visiting: www.lostandfoundnetwork.ca.

Credit: www.newscanada.com