Antonia is from San Antonio, TX, and has been living with relapsing MS since 2006. One of her goals is to raise awareness of relapsing MS in the workplace.
When I was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2006, my biggest concern was how it would impact my life at work. A few years after my diagnosis, I was a young professional in my first year as an analyst at a large financial services firm. I was terrified that my condition would impede my progress and future at the company.
I struggled with how to communicate my diagnosis to my colleagues. I wanted to ensure they were aware of my relapsing MS, but I also wanted them to know that I planned on continuing to work to the best of my ability.
Looking back, I wish I had done a bit more research before sharing my news. I decided to confide in my manager—someone who I respected both professionally and personally. Unfortunately, my boss was not willing to adapt to my needs or help me make the necessary adjustments so I could still contribute to his team. I now know that had I first informed Human Resources (HR) of my diagnosis, the trained professionals in that department would have been able to help me better navigate the process, ensuring my privacy while we figured out the best way for me to continue in my position.
I've met other people working with relapsing MS, and I’ve heard a lot of similar stories to my own. My advice is to use your best judgement when it comes to sharing your MS diagnosis. Also make sure that you're aware of your employee rights and legal protections. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) includes specific details on its website that would have certainly helped me.
Over time, I was able to find ways to adapt my career to my MS. I had a new manager who actually researched MS on his own. Because he was informed, he was able to understand my limitations, and adjust my role on projects. He was aware that some days I would feel better than others. When he could tell I wasn't at my best, he often suggested I work from home. This allowed me to work comfortably while still completing my responsibilities.
Even though my relapsing MS continued to pose some challenges for me in the workplace, I said yes to speaking up about what I needed in order to continue in my role and maintain a fulfilling and rewarding career.
Navigating life with MS can be tricky, but it's certainly possible as long as you are willing to make small changes in your routine and take advantage of the resources available to you. This could include your HR department, MS patient advocacy groups, or the patient support services offered by Biogen, the maker of TECFIDERA (you can contact them at 1-800-456-2255).
Antonia S. is a paid spokesperson for Biogen and has experience taking Tecfidera® (dimethyl fumarate). She may or may not be currently on TECFIDERA.