If you are a regular member of the online MS community, you have already heard the news that Jack Osbourne (son of Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne) has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The news was released in an interview with PEOPLE magazine on Sunday evening.
In the past 42 hours, there have been a minimum of 50 articles based on the original information released. Unfortunately most reporters did not provide much context for the announcement and misinformation is raging in the comment sections following these posts online.
Jack Osbourne, age 26, experienced an episode of optic neuritis during which he lost "60 percent of the vision in his right eye," an episode which led to his diagnosis. Reports have not mentioned any other symptoms Jack may have at this time, nor do we know if he experienced previous relapses.
If he did have prior relapses, then this diagnosis may have been a long time coming. When someone has experienced unexplained symptoms for years, or had a clinically isolated syndrome and were waiting for ‘the other foot to drop,’ then a diagnosis might actually provide some relief.
Jack received his diagnosis two to three weeks (depending upon which article you read) after the birth of his daughter in April, thus Jack is very newly diagnosed. He and his family are in that time period which can be overwhelming. Emotions may be wildly fluctuating. It is common to feel angry and sad and to question the diagnosis.
“I was just angry and frustrated and kept thinking, ‘Why now?’” Jack told PEOPLE magazine. “I’ve got a family and that’s what’s supposed to be the most important thing.”
A common time for people to be diagnosed with MS is when they are in their 20s and 30s, just when careers are developing and families are growing. I experienced my own blinding case of optic neuritis when I was 31 years old as my freelance music career was taking off. At that time, if I had not had the support of my mom, I would have been lost.
Sharon Osbourne is quoted as questioning whether she may have done something to cause Jack’s MS. “I kept thinking: ‘What did I do wrong, what did I eat or drink when I was pregnant?’ I feel like it’s somehow my fault.”
The cause of MS is not entirely understood. However, it is known that you do not develop MS because of something you may have done ‘wrong’ or something which you didn’t do ‘right.’
Unfortunately, I read many ignorant comments below the 45+ articles. Some people thought that Jack must have caused his MS because of prior elicit drug use or wild lifestyle. I’ll say it again, people who are diagnosed with MS did NOTHING to cause the disease. It is not analogous to persons who develop Type 2 Diabetes in part because of their food and lifestyle choices.
But I also read many helpful comments where people living with MS shared their knowledge, experience and advice. The MS community is great when it comes to supporting each other. What I gather from the interviews/articles is that Jack Osbourne has the full support of his family, parents, sister and fiance. I hope that he reaches out to the MS community in his local area and that his celebrity status doesn’t isolate him from getting the support we each need at one time or another.
One final thought to ponder. I applaud Jack Osbourne for putting himself out there like this. Health status is such a private thing and revealing a life-changing diagnosis is a brave thing to do. Already Jack Osbourne has caused many people to read about MS (even if in a superficial way) who would not likely have given the disease a passing thought.
Awareness is a good thing. Hopefully this opens the door (and people’s minds) for more understanding of the disease and invisible illness in general. If nothing, I’m sure that Jack Osbourne’s announcement has made more than one frightened, newly-diagnosed, 20-something year old feel less alone in this world.
Lisa Emrich is a patient advocate, accomplished speaker, author of the award-winning blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA, and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa uses her experience to educate patients, raise disease awareness, encourage self-advocacy, and support patient-centered research. Lisa frequently works with non-profit organizations and has brought the patient voice to health care conferences and meetings worldwide. Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.