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You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the emotions you are experiencing and the questions that are going through your mind. And you may be wondering how to begin dealing with the stress and uncertainty that this new diagnosis has introduced into your life.
Initial reactions to being diagnosed with MS usually include some combination of disbelief, shock, fear and possibly even relief. Some people may question the diagnosis and continue to search for an explanation for their symptoms. Others may feel so shocked that they find it difficult to feel anything at all.
For those people who have heard only about the most severe cases of MS, the initial reaction may be fear. Anyone who has lived for months or years with unexplained symptoms, or has been told that the problems were all emotional or psychological, may actually feel relieved to finally have an answer. Others may be relieved that their illness isn’t a brain tumour or some other fatal disease.
You will probably need answers to a number of important questions, such as:
“What will happen to me?”
This is one of the most commonly asked questions, but unfortunately due to the varied and unpredictable nature of MS it is impossible to answer with any certainty.
“Will I be severely disabled?”
For the vast majority of people with MS, the answer to this question will be no. Rapid progression is rare and most people with MS will never need to use a wheelchair on a regular basis.
“Am I going to lose my independence?”
Again for most people the answer is no. Most people with MS continue to enjoy an active life many years after diagnosis.
“Will I die early?”
Most people with MS will live just as long as anybody else.
“Can MS be treated?”
While there is no known cure for MS, there are a variety of treatments that help to manage symptoms, as well as several medications that have been shown to be effective in altering the course of the disease. With the help of your doctor, you will learn to manage the symptoms that MS may bring and take whatever steps you can to enhance your quality of life.
Although it is natural to experience a sense of loss for the life you had planned, MS need not be the devastating diagnosis that many people fear, particularly if you have access to good information and to the right treatments and support from health and social care professionals.
Sharing your diagnosis is a very personal and individual decision. It is important to know that there is no right or wrong answer and there are benefits to both options. You also don’t need to tell everyone or rush into the decision.
Your regional MS Field Worker can provide you with advice and support about disclosing your diagnosis.
Here are some further resources to help you make the decision about if, when and how to share your diagnosis:
Telling people you have MS – MS International Federation
Telling people about your MS – MS Trust
MS Online Community – National MS Society
How to Tell Your Friends about Multiple Sclerosis – Move over MS