You Are Your Own Best Advocate
In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in March, we’re pleased to feature Amber Burton, an advocate diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2015.
More than 2.3 million people around the world are affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that damages the central nervous system. I am one of those 2.3 million patients living with MS, recently diagnosed in 2015. I am eager to tell my story and bring attention to the often invisible symptoms of MS, the challenge of diagnosing an autoimmune disease, and the new treatments that are helping patients like myself around the world.
A Decade of Symptoms
My journey with MS, like many others, is long and complex. Based on what I know now, I was actually experiencing symptoms for about a decade before receiving my diagnosis. Symptoms began in my late 20s, when I started suffering from occasional headaches, numbness and tingling in my arms and legs, balance issues, extreme fatigue and some trouble with short-term memory. One fall down a flight of stairs in 2013 knocked me unconscious for an unknown length of time. I always attributed these symptoms to something else, like stress or anxiety, never thinking they could be a symbol of something more serious.
What I did not realize at the time, nor did my doctors, is that these bouts of symptoms were MS flare-ups.
My symptoms grew more frequent and more severe leading up to my diagnosis in late 2015. I started losing feeling in both of my legs, lost nearly all of my vision in my left eye and was walking disjointedly. By the time I had the autoimmune blood panel and subsequent MRI, the doctors gave me the official diagnosis and saw how far my MS had advanced. There were so many lesions on my brain it looked like the spots on a leopard.