MS support group forms in Harrison
Harrison County now has a way to help those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic unpredictable disease of the central nervous system.
The MS Support Group of Harrison County was founded in June by Shannon Juliot of Ramsey. Until now, Harrison County had not had a MS support group. The closest was in Floyd County.
Juliot, 37, said she hopes the group, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the YMCA in Corydon, will help others fight for a cure for MS and help those with the disease realize they are not alone in their struggles.
Participation has been a problem, Juliot said. She said during the meeting in November only five people attended.
‘People are very afraid of ‘coming out’ with their illness,’ Juliot said in an interview last week.
The next meeting for the support group will be on Jan. 9, and Juliot said the meetings are not just open to those with MS.
‘I welcome all people with neurological diseases to come to the meeting and their caretakers,’ Juliot said.
She said anything said during the meetings is confidential, and the group is currently planning many fund-raisers and events.
One of those events, Juliot said, is participating in a MS walk in Evansville in April. The walk features participants from all over the state, and Juliot said Harrison County will have a team.
‘It’s a very important walk,’ Juliot said. ‘We’re going to be going and asking different businesses for donations for the MS walk.’
The money raised for the walk goes to the National MS Society for research to help fight the disease and find a cure.
The MS Support Group of Harrison County will also sell red ‘band-of-hope’ bracelets as part of its fund-raising efforts.
Juliot, who was diagnosed with MS in 2002, decided to start a support group after meeting several people with MS while out shopping. Her husband, Dennis, also knew someone in Harrison County with MS who was unable to leave their home.
Juliot said she decided it was time Harrison County had its own support group. She said she also hopes to change the way MS is screened and push for women in the county to be screened for the disease sooner.
‘Early intervention is the best option,’ she said.
Juliot, who was 31 when she was diagnosed, said she suffered from blurred vision, numbness, tingling and bladder problems.
‘It’s so difficult to diagnose it, because people have so many different symptoms,’ she said.
Juliot said she was told she had a brain tumor, AIDS, Lyme Disease and a Central Nervous System Disorder before she was diagnosed with MS after seeing seven doctors.
‘It just about broke up my marriage,’ Juliot said. ‘One doctor told me I wouldn’t have children; another doctor told me not to have children.’
Juliot now has two sons, ages one and three.
MS can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, memory loss, paralysis, blindness and more. While the underlying causes of the disease are unknown, MS symptoms occur when a person’s immune system attacks tissue, called myelin, in the brain that protect nerve fibers of the central nervous system. When the myelin is destroyed, it is replaced with scar tissue called a sclerosis. Some underlying nerve fibers are also permanently severed. The damage also appears in multiple areas all over the brain.
Currently, an estimated 400,000 Americans have MS and 200 new cases are diagnosed each week. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women more than men. The disease can also affect children. Most people diagnosed with MS lead a normal life although in severe cases the disease can shorten a person’s life. There are also four clinical courses of the disease, each of which can be mild, moderate or severe.
Juliot said she takes several medications to treat MS, including Betaseron which she injects every other day and also a medicine to keep the swelling down on the scleroses on her brain.
‘It’s a very depressing disease,’ Juliot said, adding she hopes the support group she has formed will help others.
‘Some people say, ‘Why me, why me?’ I say why not me, and that is how I get through it.’
For more information on the MS Support Group of Harrison County, call Juliot at 347-2370. For more information on Multiple Sclerosis, visit nationalmssociety.org.