I’m going to be honest. It took me several days to recover from the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Annual Meeting (#CMSC2017). I had no idea that it would drain me like it did. As I said in my previous post (Recovering from #CMSC2017), this was unlike any other conference I have ever attended because I felt a true emotional connection to this event. I mean, how could I not?!
Although I felt physically and emotionally drained, attending CMSC2017 reconfirmed and reinvigorated me with a tremendous feeling of hope. There are incredible companies and amazing medical minds constantly working on improving the care and the overall quality of life for people living with MS. I have an even greater amount of gratitude and appreciation for how far we’ve come in knowledge, research, and treatment of multiple sclerosis.
While my main purpose in attending CMSC2017 was to promote LiveWiseMS.org, I did have moments either at the LiveWiseMS booth or on the exhibit hall that were truly memorable and exciting for me. Here are some of my personal highlights from the event:
- Resources for my children explaining MS. I picked up two books, “Mommy’s Story: An introduction for younger children to learn about a parent’s MS” from the Multiple Sclerosis Association of American (MSAA) and “A conversation about… Monkey Snot (Multiple Sclerosis)” from the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MS Focus). These books are an awesome (and not scary) way of teaching my 5 and 11-year old sons about multiple sclerosis. My boys know I have this disease but I’m not sure they exactly know what that means. These books offer fun, easy-to-understand explanations of a topic that is rather complicated and hard to convey to children.
- Online exercise program designed specifically for people with MS in mind. I was super excited to see this new online program that offers wheelchair or standing workout sessions that can be done from the comfort of your own home. This type of offering is something I think will truly help the MS community. Exercise is a key component to living well with MS and overcoming the many symptoms that accompany the disease. This program, called Practical Fitness Online – MS, addresses the specific needs and considerations of those living with multiple sclerosis. It also offers nutritional tips and menus, weekly instructor advice, as well as free progress journal and click pen.
- The Ampyra Challenge. Ampyra, a medication prescribed to help people with MS improve their walking ability, had an interactive exhibit booth. My colleague and I took on the challenge. It was a fun, “game-show”-like experience and we learned more about Ampyra in the process.
- Connecting with other MS sites, like MS Focus and iConquerMS, and meeting some of the people behind these sites. To me, having all of these different resources online only helps the MS community even further. Like the variableness of the disease, these sites all offer something just a little bit different to the person living with MS. Whatever you are looking for, you are bound to find what you need online through these awesome resources.
- The nurse who told me I wasn’t a patient. I was talking to a practitioner and sharing a little bit about my personal story being an “MS patient.” She stopped me and said, “I’m amazed you referred to yourself as a ‘patient.’ You’re not a “patient.” You’re a person who happens to have MS.” I loved that perspective. She was absolutely correct! For the rest of the meeting, I stopped referring to myself as an “MS patient” but rather a person who has been living with MS since 2003.
- The countless number of high fives I received after sharing my personal story. I would be chatting with someone and when asked how I was doing, I would tell them that I’m training for my second half marathon this summer. It would stop them dead in their tracks and they’d immediately get into high five position which of course, I gladly obliged! Who turns down a high-five?! It was very touching to receive this type of excited reaction and overwhelming support.
There was so much valuable information and research that came out of this year’s CMSC Annual Meeting. If you choose to dig in deeper, you can review some of the information, download abstracts or PDF handouts of presentations on the CMSC site. The 2018 CMSC Annual Meeting is already scheduled for May 30-June 2, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.