Two years ago, Jessica Darrah, a 31-year-old young woman from New Brunswick learned that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). She was working as a musician on a cruise ship when she started having trouble seeing with her right eye. Numerous tests and almost eight months later, the young woman finally learned the cause of this problem.

“I got scared when I heard the diagnosis. There is someone in my family who is suffering from multiple sclerosis and he seems very ill. Later on, I understood that his suffering was due to the adverse effects of the medication that he was taking at the time that was making him so ill,” she explains.

A medicine that is easy to use

Although there are many types of medication against multiple sclerosis (MS), the young woman’s neurologist strongly advised her to take a new oral medicine once per day. The medicine was approved by Health Canada in November 2013 and is available in the form of daily pills. “For me, injecting myself every day was out of the question. This would have been a constant reminder of the fact that I was ill. A pill is easy. It doesn’t change my routine too much, It’s like taking a vitamin once a day.” Jessica says humorously.

The potential adverse effects of other drugs on the market were concerning her a lot. Jessica states that, “I was afraid things would get worse with the medicine than without it. The medicine I was prescribed hasn’t given me any side effects. It has relieved and reassured me a lot.”

Maintaining an active life

This new daily pill enables the young woman to keep living an active life, almost as if nothing happened. She confesses that, “I don’t even feel sick. In fact, I’ve just bought a new pair of running shoes!” Jessica adds that she had just completed a triathlon before she got sick. These days, she walks about 10 kilometers every day and she is making plans to resume her traveling very soon, along with her guitar and microphone.

Advances in research

Although a permanent cure to MS has not been found yet, the various types of treatment that are currently available can slow the progression of the disease.  Josée Poirier, who has been serving as a clinical nurse with Notre-Dame Hospital’s multiple sclerosis clinic since 1994, has noticed significant improvement in the multiple sclerosis patients’ quality of life. “The progress in research on the disease is fantastic! When I started practice, no medication was available. Nowadays, many drugs are available and you can get treated as soon as the first symptoms are noticed,” the nurse explains.  

“I don’t even feel sick. In fact, I’ve just bought a new pair of running shoes!”

Oral medication is an important milestone in MS research. The nurse asserts that the transition from an injectable treatment to an oral pill is a relief for certain patients. She says that, “This type of treatment is a big bonus. Among other things, patients can travel in comfort. A pill is discrete and it’s easy to carry. Carrying needles is more difficult.”

These days, Jessica feels lucky to have been diagnosed in times where medication that suits her lifestyle is available. She views the future with optimism. The young woman concludes that, “I have never had such a positive outlook on life. Anyway, it is useless to complain about something that we have no control over. It prevents us from being happy!”