Getting a Cold with MS: Adding Fuel to the Fire

Patient Expert

I count my blessings that Multiple Sclerosis is like a fire smoldering inside of me. Seldom does it ever rage to a full-blown blaze.

With relapsing-remitting MS, it's as though the embers continue burning underneath the surface of my skin. The numbness in my hands. Tingling in my feet. Increased levels of fatigue.

Every day I continue doing as much as I can, from working full time as a writer/editor at Central Michigan University to serving as Jennifer's primary caregiver and running three times each week to stay healthy. I always am in tune with my body as to not stir the MS to the point it rekindles and sparks another blaze - or relapse, if you will.

But I had no choice this last week. In the same way powerful winds spread wildfires, natural elements fanned the embers of my symptoms into hard-to-control realities.

I came down with bronchitis.

Dealing with something like this is bad enough by itself, let alone adding it on top of MS. It's like adding fuel to the fire and it in turn irritates and accentuates what already is bothering me with my MS.

I dropped a lot of things this week, including a full bottle of cough syrup, because I had little feeling left in my hands. Helping Jennifer make transfers was a little more challenging because of the temporarily decreased feeling in my legs. I slept a lot.

I remember the first time I developed a cold after I first was diagnosed with MS some 12 years ago. Being new to the whole living with this chronic disease of the central nervous system, the cold-irritated MS symptoms led me to believe I was having an exacerbation. Just like Fred Sanford (for those who remember the show), I felt sure the big one was coming.

Over time and experience in living with MS, I now know that when I get sick with a cold, flu or most recently with bronchitis, my MS symptoms are destined to flare up for a moment. I remind myself that this too shall pass, and I then look forward to the day when the cold is gone and MS merely is a smoldering ember I must keep contained.

Sure, I'd love to extinguish the fire completely, but that isn't going to happen until we find a cure to this disease that affects more than 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million worldwide.

In the meantime, I'll do what I can to keep my disease at bay and support efforts to increase MS awareness and to fundraise for research and patient-assistance programs through MS-related organizations.

Maybe we can start a fire of our own to fight this disease we share.