This time next week MS-UK will be celebrating MS Awareness Week, and you can join us!
This year we are spreading the word about our newest national service, MS-UK Counselling. I would love you to get involved by downloading our Twitter and Facebook graphics...by adding them to your profiles you will be helping us reach even more people affected by multiple sclerosis who may benefit from counselling.
Right click on these images and select 'Save image as...' to download them to your computer:
Thank you for your help!
April is always an exciting month for us here at MS-UK as we mark MS Awareness Week, and 2018 is no different!
This year we are celebrating our newest national service, MS-UK Counselling. We launched the pilot of this service in October 2017 and since then have delivered over 150 telephone counselling sessions to people with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. But we want to help even more people!
At MS-UK, we believe that it’s good to talk. However, we know that there can still be a stigma around accessing counselling, and we want to break down these barriers so people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can get the support they need.
So, this MS Awareness Week I ask you to help us spread the message that it’s good to talk! Throughout the week of 23 – 27 April we will be posting on Facebook and Twitter all about MS-UK Counselling, and it would be great if you could help us spread the word by retweeting or sharing our posts. Thank you!
Keep an eye on our blog for updates as we near the big week...
I am pleased to say New Pathways issue 108 is now landing on doormats across the country! As always we have a packed issue, full of all the latest multiple sclerosis (MS) news and research, including drug updates and the latest cannabis study findings.
As the sunshine begins to make an appearance, we get topical with lots on vitamin D. MSer Ian Cook puts vitamin D tablets and sprays to the test (see page 30) and Kahn Johnson reveals what happened when his vitamin D levels became toxic on page 16.
Also in this issue, MS Nurse Miranda Olding discusses sexual dsyfunction and what can be done to help (page 14) and we have the big interview with the star of Channel 4 programme 'The Search for a Miracle Cure' Mark Lewis (page 24).
I hope you enjoy reading this issue, and please do email me your comments and letters to email@example.com.
Editor, New Pathways
P.S. Don't forget New Pathways is available to read on the go. Download the My MS-UK app from the App store on your phone or tablet device today!
Most people with MS recognise the expertise of their doctors and nurses, but somehow feel that there doesn’t seem to be enough time to cover all the things that matter to them and sometimes important things get missed. A group of people with MS and healthcare professionals are working together to improve clinic visits.
The group is called MS in the 21st Century. Many countries are represented and we learn from each other. We meet up a few times a year. We work to improve MS health care by understanding each other’s priorities and modelling partnership between people with MS and health professionals.
We have recently published a paper in a scientific journal which includes authors who have MS and also authors who are health professionals. This is a ground breaking project. The authors have discussed the priorities they have in an MS clinic visit and agreed a list of unmet needs from the viewpoints of both people with MS and health professionals. We have developed the paper jointly. As well as highlighting our different perspectives, we have also made practical recommendations. Our aim is to bridge the gaps between what people with MS and health professionals expect and provide.
We hope that the publication of this paper will be a key step towards ensuring that MS care addresses the expectations, priorities and needs of people with MS. It is vital that we work together to support people with MS to be fully engaged in managing their own condition. The paper emphasises the perspective of people with MS and how essential their involvement is in high-quality MS care.
From my own work as a neuropsychologist, I am particularly concerned to increase understanding of the psychological impact of MS, including cognition, mental health and wellbeing. We need to increase awareness of how these impacts can be recognised and successfully addressed.
Birgit Bauer, another author and a person with MS says, ‘As a person with MS, I cannot overstate the significance of this publication. I am hopeful patients everywhere and their healthcare teams will recognise the need for better communication and partnership with the ultimate goal of more effective and personalised care.’
"Unmet needs, burden of treatment, and patient engagement in multiple sclerosis: a combined perspective from the MS in the 21st Century Steering Group" is published in the peer reviewed journal, Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders (MSARD), and is freely available online now. DOI: 10.1016/j.msard.2017.11.013
If you are a person with MS, or are close to someone who has MS, and you are interested to help Professor Dawn Langdon’s team in their work on psychological aspects of MS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 19 March, BBC Breakfast featured a short piece on a HSCT trial with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients taking place in Sheffield. It provoked a strong reaction from the MS community and a lot of questions, so we’ve tried to answer some of them…
What is it and how does it work?
A variety of clinics and hospitals across the world, including Sheffield and London are trialling and practicing HSCT treatment.
This particular Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) trial, which has been taking place in Sheffield, America, Sweden and Brazil, involves the patient having stem cells extracted from their bone marrow. Next they are given chemotherapy treatment, which strips back their immune system to almost that of a baby and then the healthy stem cells are transplanted back into their body.
The trial was set up to test the efficacy of HSCT treatment versus FDA approved MS drugs, such as interferon, glatiramer acetate, mitoxantrone, natalizumab, fingolimod, or tecfidera.
Just over 100 patients have taken part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Scientists conducting the research claim they have made a significant breakthrough with this type of treatment in patients with highly active relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
Patients received either HSCT or drug treatment. After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.
After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.
Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.
The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.
Click here to read the study’s abstract - Hematopoietic Stem Cell Therapy for Patients With Inflammatory Multiple Sclerosis Failing Alternate Approved Therapy: A Randomized Study.
What is the inclusion criteria?
Participants have to be aged 18-55 and have a clinically defined MS diagnosis using the revised McDonald criteria.
Their Expanded Disability Status Score (EDSS) should be 2.0 to 6.0.
The must show inflammatory disease despite treatment with standard disease modifying therapy, including at least six months of interferon or copaxone.
Inflammatory disease is defined based on both MRI (gadolinium enhancing lesions) and clinical activity (acute relapses *treated with IV or oral high dose corticosteroids and prescribed by a neurologist). Minimum disease activity required for failure is defined as: a) two or more *steroid treated clinical relapses with documented new objective signs on neurological examination documented by a neurologist within the year prior to the study, or b) one *steroid treated clinical relapse within the year prior to study and evidence on MRI of active inflammation (i.e., gadolinium enhancement) within the last 12 months on an occasion separate from the clinical relapse (three months before or after the clinical relapse).
A steroid treated relapse will include a relapse that was severe enough to justify treatment but due to patient intolerance of steroids, or a history of non-response to steroids, they were offered but not used.
More information about inclusion and exclusion criteria can be found here.
Can I get on the trial?
Unfortunately you cannot. This is because although the trial is still active they are not recruiting.
Will it really be available on the NHS within a few months?
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT "will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England”, but will it?
While this is a phase III trial testing the efficacy of the HSCT, which will be incredibly significant when it comes to gaining licensing approval, the treatment has only been formally assessed for use in the NHS within clinical trials.
There will also be a few more hoops to jump through, such as gaining approval from NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Although NICE does now have a fast track criteria, which enables certain drugs and treatments with the right evidence to pass through the system much quicker than we have seen in the past. Cost will almost definitely be a deciding factor. HSCT comes with a price tag of £30,000, but there are already some approved DMTs with a similar costing available to patients, so this could help justify the expenditure, especially if the treatment can halt the MS for a long period of time. We should also be mindful that a higher price point can often lead to drugs and treatments being allocated to minorities with strict criteria, rather than being rolled out for everyone.
When does the trial end?
The trial is still ongoing and its estimated end date is December 2018.
Is it really a “game changer”?
Well, it’s a great step forward for people with RRMS and it does mean there is a potential highly-successful treatment that could halt MS in its tracks on the horizon.
However, HSCT treatment in secondary and primary progressive patients doesn’t tend to be as effective and you tend to see less improvement in disability because the nerve damage by this point has become permanent.
There are still a number of questions we do not have the answer to, such as how long does the treatment last?
But maybe the biggest questions of all is if MS is genetic, the person will still have the same gene and what’s to stop the gene being triggered again and the MS returning if we do not know the true cause?
We just wanted to let you know about this important source of information that our MS-UK Helpline team regularly uses to support the multiple sclerosis (MS) community.
The Disability Rights Handbook is a guide to benefits and services for anyone with a disability, their families, carers and advisers. It contains a wealth of information relating to the benefits system, as well as social care services and help for carers. This guide will be relevant to many people living with MS.
Clients who use the MS-UK Helpline have let us know how valuable the information provided by our advisors is and, since a lot of that information can be found in the Disability Rights Handbook, we wanted to share it with you. If you would like to buy your own copy, you can do so on the Disability Rights UK website store.
We wanted to let you know this was available to pre-order as last year’s handbook sold out in quite quickly!
As always, though, our MS advisors are available to listen to you, talk things through with you and keep giving you as much helpful information and support as possible.
The Beast from the East has arrived! I’m recovering from a relapse (MS for sh&t!) where my mobility has been challenged, I’ve fallen several times (last time at the cinema whilst moving to let someone pass, think I deserve an Oscar for my performance!) and experiencing tons of fatigue (if I got paid to sleep, I’d be rich) so my writing is on the back burner.
I was inspired to write about how the weather affects those like me. It’s been on my mind. I have thought how reduced energy levels and mobility doesn’t wash with this weather, how limited I am but more importantly how I have to think differently and be more prepared.
The weather presents many challenges. If you flick on the TV, there are shots of the level of snow, schools closed, difficulty travelling, travel disruption and forecasts for how long we are to expect this harsh winter weather. And it doesn’t help with a storm on the way. Many other countries experience snow. They are prepared. Ours grinds to a halt, although in its defence, this harsh weather is the worst I’ve seen for a while. Little man loves the white stuff. So here are my tips for handling bad weather for those in my boat, or anyone really.
You’ll probably stay in at home. For little man, I stock up on craft kits, board games, films for indoor fun ( I can recommend Peppa’s Cold Winter Day and Peanuts movie for little man and it doesn’t drive me nuts) and books. Reading to little man is a great time filler. Ask others to buy children’s magazines if you’ve not got any in. They usually have stories, colouring and sticker fun.
When travelling, I make sure I have food, drink, toilet stuff (she wee/incontinence pads, travel potty, toilet roll, baby wipes, carrier bag to put things in, gross but true!) things to entertain little man, warm clothes and a blanket. We’ve been putting a little man’s blanket on the radiator to place on him during car journeys.
My mobility is bad and I’ve fallen a few times. The safest option is staying at home but it isn’t always viable. Slippy snow and ice isn’t great for anyone but when you have fallen and use a walking stick (doesn’t work well in snow!) this weather is super scary. I wear shoes I know that can help and am buying shoe grips.
Don’t put pressure on yourself
It’s OK to feel like you can’t be bothered. But little man is so excited. He’s seen snow before but not on this scale. I close my eyes and little man wakes me by shouting “kick a ball” or “go outside Mummy”. My husband says he’ll stick me on a sledge! (I’m thinking about weight restrictions!) It’s heart breaking when you have little energy to lift your bum off the sofa, let alone play in the snow. Give yourself a break, if you can. I’m saving energy for the weekend as my husband says he’ll be my chaperone. I’ve realised that asking for help is not a sign of weakness – so family and friends have had fun in the snow with little man, giving me a chance to recharge. I think they like it!
Protect your mind
Asking for help helps you to rest but there is the realisation that you can’t play in the snow like yesteryear. Emotions come to a head. Grief. Anger. Frustration. Envy. Social media has a lot to answer for that. Don’t get me wrong it’s lovely to see what others are doing on their snowy days but it’s a reminder that you have limited mobility. I’ve cried a lot over the last few days because I want to be the one to play in the snow with little man. I will go out at the weekend with my husband around. In the interim, try not to be alone, hook up with others whether it’s friends who can come to you (I organised a play date today), speaking to social media contacts ( I asked my local MS Society group for best shoe grips recommendations) and plan for brighter days ( I’m thinking of summer holidays).
Be more hygge
In the interim, snuggle down, grab a blanket, hot chocolate and biscuits may not be great for the waist line but I’m still scoffing and watch films. Be like a Dane until the bad weather goes away.
Stay safe everyone! I’d love to know your tips?
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Every year we run our annual survey, asking you to tell us a bit about yourself. Last year hundreds of you took part – thank you!
We run this survey every year so that we can make sure we are always providing services that really meet the needs of people affected by multiple sclerosis, and so that we ensure we are reaching as many different people as possible that want information or support.
In the survey we’ll be asking questions all about you – from how old you are to what MS-UK services you may have used in the past. Everything is completely anonymous, and we won’t be asking you for any contact details at all.
Thank you so much for taking part!
Laura May, Marketing Manager
Hello, This year is very special for MS-UK as we celebrate our 25th anniversary of supporting people affected by multiple sclerosis! So, how can you get involved? Well, you could be the proud owner of one of our limited edition anniversary pin badges! In 2018, we have a limited edition 25th anniversary pin badge especially for anyone who raises or donates £25 or more in aid of MS-UK! Whether you love getting active or prefer a cuppa and cake, fundraising for MS-UK is as much fun as you make it! Ways to support MS-UK…
Whatever you decide to do, we’re here to support you all the way. Contact the fundraising team using our online form. And good luck! Jill Jill Purcell, Fundraising Manager
Yesterday evening, BBC One’s The One Show aired the story of one MSers decision to end his life at Dignitas in Switzerland.
Colin Campbell, 57, from Scotland was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) in 1995. In the knowledge that his MS would get progressively worse he had decided that “another winter would be unbearable”. He had chosen 15 June as the day he was going to die. He didn’t want to be alive and more disabled than he is now. His story even made it onto a local Scottish news channel. Little did he know that just half a mile down the road from where he was living a stranger was watching - another MSer Rhona Tynan. She had watched his story and decided that she “couldn’t let this man go ahead and do this without trying”, so she phoned up the TV station and got in touch with Colin. She asked him to come and see her and how she was coping.
“I just wanted to see if I could help him see if things could be better,” she said.
Colin did go and see Rhona and they formed an unexpected friendship. After spending two “enjoyable” days together and after discussing things with her Colin decided to cancel his 15 June appointment in Switzerland. Seven months later, Colin discussed how meeting Rhona had changed his life. He said: “My flat had become a prison. I couldn’t get out, there were two flights of stairs. You lose the will to live.
“No one had explained to me what options there were,” he explained. “If Rhona hadn’t have contacted me that would have been it for me on the 15 June. It would have been all over,” he added.
Rhona said: “It became very clear to me that Colin didn’t have the correct support for quality of life.” “I know a scooter gave me quality of life because it allowed me to get out and about. Colin didn’t have one and he didn’t know how to go about getting one.” So they decided to have a day out together trying out and testing some scooters. But getting a scooter was just the beginning. He also found out that he was entitled to a ground floor accommodation and 24-hour assisted living. Inspired by her relationship with Colin, Rhona has now set up a networking group for other people who have found themselves in a similar situation. Rhona has also recently been to Mexico for stem cell treatment and is seeing positive results. She talks about her improvements on the show and has most recently managed to walk 50 steps while holding her husband’s hand, something she wasn’t able to do before the treatment. If you missed the show, which aired at 7pm on 14 Feb 2018, and would like to watch the full interview visit the BBC iPlayer and scroll through to 32:40 minutes. If you would like to read more about assisted dying, subscribe to New Pathways magazine issue 107 and read a great piece written by Journalist and progressive MSer Ian Cook, as he discusses your right to die. New Pathways is a magazine for people living with MS. The much loved title has been running for 25 years and is a great source of information and support for many MSers. To subscribe click here, or call 01206 226500.