Multiple Sclerosis Awareness, Advocacy, Activism: Drawing Personal Attention

Mandy Crest Health Guide
  • Multiple sclerosis changed my life in more ways than I can count.

    There are obvious ways -- the physical changes that are the hallmark of this disease. There's no denying emotional changes, at times so subtle that they are hard to grasp. Then there are lifestyle changes, some thrust upon us, some we choose.

    Not all of the changes are negative. Believe it or not, I'm grateful for the lessons learned through my personal experience with MS. I've learned patience, understanding, and the importance of the here and now. I’ve learned that procrastination is no longer acceptable in my life because I can’t count on tomorrow. And I’ve learned about the part of me I didn’t know existed.

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    In August of 2007, I entered the world of MS bloggers. Strange thing for a shy person to do but, safe behind my pen name, I dove in. Frustrated by myths and misconceptions about multiple sclerosis, I wanted to educate and inform the general public from a patient perspective.

    By December, I was a regular here on The Health Central Network, and growing increasingly concerned about health care reform. I made it a point to post often on this topic and use personal examples to draw attention to the health care train wreck.

    Emails started landing in my inbox, offering suggestions and asking for information on the issues we MS patients face. Last spring, I received an email from the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, requesting that I write an article for MSFocus Magazine. That made me stop and think. If what I felt was true passion for a cause, maybe it was time to break the shyness shell and embrace it. With that in mind, I wrote the article under my real name. A mixture of anxiety and excitement followed.

    Earlier this month, I wrote a post titled, “Wall Street, Main Street, and MS.” It caught the attention of a reporter from The Washington Post, who asked to speak with me. Once again, I made the decision to “out” myself.  (Our own Lisa Emrich was also quoted in the article.)

    In a quiet way, I did set out to be an advocate for MS patients like me, joining a long line of passionate patients and bloggers. I didn't set out to become an activist. That's for the bold and the outgoing. All that changed when the health care crisis came to call on my home.

    I’m not sure what criteria should be met before you can call yourself an activist. The dictionary defines activist as: "an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, esp. a political cause." Okay, so I'm an activist.

    If you are participating here at The Health Central Network, if you host your own health-related blog, if you write your representatives in congress, if you shout from the rooftops in an effort to educate and inform... you are a health care activist.

    Together, we can make a difference. Let's start by exercising our right to vote on November 4.

    Please help me stay informed... keep your emails and comments coming. And if I’ve left you wondering, you can visit my profile.

Published On: October 29, 2008