On the 38th episode of Shit We Don’t Talk About, Mia has a chat with entrepreneur and podcaster Jillian Leslie. Jillian is here to talk about living with Multiple Sclerosis and the special challenges it can create in the time of a global pandemic that feels like it just won’t go away.
- 75% of all MS cases are among women. It is most likely to surface between the ages of 20 and 40.
- MS is an autoimmune disease in which white blood cells “lose their way” and begin to attack healthy cells in the brain and nervous system.
- The first signs of MS are often vision-related.
- For Jillian, her first MS symptoms were related to balance, dizziness, and vision problems.
- Initially, Jillian was virtually incapacitated by the sudden onset of her MS symptoms. She felt powerless (especially as a mother ), and immediately began gravitating toward thoughts of being permanently disabled and wheeled around by her husband. Initial treatment was successful in reducing her symptoms, but this left her feeling weakened and vulnerable.
- The cause of MS is currently unknown. It is widely believed that environmental factors and stress triggers play a role in the emergence of the disease in any particular case. Global MS trends seem to support the idea that vitamin D deficiency may play a role as equatorial populations exhibit a far lower incidence of MS than populations to the north and south where natural exposure to the sun is lessened.
- Jillian’s MS is currently in remission, however, MS is generally a progressive disease where things do get worse over time.
- Jillian’s situation appears to have been improved by the fact that she has always been a healthy person in general. Starting from that point has made a difference. Going forward, she is on an immunosuppressant drug, making sure that she prioritizes her physical and mental health at all times. Stress management, a good diet, healthy sleep habits, and regular exercise are critical parts of her strategy for maintaining as high a degree of wellness as possible.
- Curiously, the incidence of cancer among MS patience is low. An overactive immune system – primed to attack everything – seems to keep many potential diseases in check. But that can go too far as is the case with MS, so drugs are used to turn down that overactive immune system and keep it from doing accidental damage to healthy cells. While this helps slow the progression of MS, it also leaves MS patients in an immunocompromised state.
- Having a suppressed immune system is not really where one wants to be in the middle of a global pandemic. The best data on the particular drug that Jillian is using indicates that the drug lessens the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. This left Jillian feeling like the “weak link in the chain” in her family going through the pandemic. Her situation requires her to take extra precautions when it comes to socializing and coming into contact with others, especially as COVID numbers are rising again and the delta variant is taking a toll in the US.
- Even for someone in an immunocompromised situation, dealing with the pandemic is a daily learning experience. Sometimes making it up as she goes along and making choices minute by minute, Jillian has to balance her health needs with the physical and mental health needs of other members of her family.
- In the end, dealing with COVID-19 is not just about dying or living. Jillian must remain aware and on guard against neurological long-term impacts of the virus.
About Jillian Leslie
Jillian is an entrepreneur and a co-founder at Milo Tree. She is also the host of the Blogger Genius podcast. Contact Jillian via email to jillian at milotree dot com, or visit her using any of the following links:
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