National MS Society, Self Help Group of Kent Island

By Sandra Zunino

If you have been struggling with a diagnosis of Muscular Sclerosis, you are no longer alone. Recently started, The Multiple Sclerosis Society Mid Atlantic Chapter Self Help Group of Kent Island is available to provide information and lend support.

The National MS Society is a collective of individuals who want to do something about MS and move together toward a world free of multiple sclerosis. The Society helps people affected by MS by funding cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education, and providing programs and services that help people with MS and their families move their lives forward.

MS Society Self Help Group Leaders, Josephine Titus and Michele Golis of Kent Island started the group last November. While they skipped the December meeting due to holiday scheduling conflicts, they now meet monthly every third Wednesday at the Stevensville Library from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

At the next meeting on Wednesday, April 15, the group will view a DVD about MS–related cognition issues called “Hold That Thought.” Other meetings included bringing in a Pilates instructor to demonstrate how to perform Pilates from a wheelchair. Additional topics might cover the affects of chiropractics or acupuncture on MS symptoms.

“The MS Society sends us videos and booklets for the meetings,” says Josephine. In order to be qualified leaders, both Josephine and Michele participated in three interactive online classes and attended an MS Society training course in Towson, Maryland. “They let us know what we can and cannot talk about and what to do if someone is very depressed,” explains Josephine. “It was very informative.”

Once completing the course, Josephine and Michele were awarded certificates. The time they put into the group is strictly voluntary, but Josephine says it’s worth it. Josephine was diagnosed with MS in 1991. At first, she was misdiagnosed with Lyme’s Disease, but an MRI later confirmed that she had MS. Currently she is in the Secondary-Progressive stage.

Josephine says when she first received the diagnosis she was in denial. While there were several MS support groups on the other side of the bridge, there was nothing in this area. “I believe there are other people going through the same situation,” she says.

In fact, every hour in the United States, someone is newly diagnosed with multiple
Sclerosis. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with more
than twice as many women as men contracting the disease. A disease of the central nervous system there are four stages: Relapsing-Remitting, Primary-Progressive, Secondary-Progressive and Progressive-Relapsing. Currently there is no cure for MS. While MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S., and 2.5 million worldwide, MS Society statistics indicate about 700 people on the Eastern Shore suffer from MS.

Through the MS Self Help Group, participants will learn about new treatments for MS, trial studies they may be qualified to participate in and results from the latest research. They will also be able to share their experiences, empathize and socialize with each other.

Currently the group is small at seven members, but Josephine is hoping the word will spread and more will join. “I’d like for people to come out and share,” she says, “We don’t want people to be scared.”

For more information about the Multiple Sclerosis Society Self Help Group of Kent Island, please call Josephine Titus at 443-786-2214 or Michele Golis at 443-618-4469.