At 19 years old, Sam Salvaggio had a strange day where her body suddenly felt off. She was woozy, and everything slowed down as if she were moving through molasses. Even though it was a cold day she sweat through all her clothes, then went home and slept for 20 hours straight. She finally woke up with double vision, numbness in her face, issues walking and was unable to use her right hand. Rushing to the emergency room, she learned she had brain lesions characteristic of MS (multiple sclerosis). A trip to the neurologist would confirm this diagnosis.
17 years later, Sam has made great strides learning to live with MS. This disease is characterized by the immune system mistakenly attacks the central nervous system, causing damage to the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. Sam was originally diagnosed with the most common form of MS, relapsing-remitting. During relapses Sam experiences a wide range of functional symptoms, but would return to baseline during remitting periods. For the past two years she has been noticing changes to her functionality, which led to the recent diagnostic shift into active secondary progressive MS. This means she is accruing damage during her relapses, resulting in weaker areas of her nervous system and a progressive symptom picture.
In this episode of the Major Pain podcast, Sam talks us through her journey so far with MS. Coping with the mental health toll of a degenerative disease is always challenging, and Sam has needed to grieve many times along her journey. She tells us about trying to keep up with her peers during her college years while privately struggling through feeling like a burden. It would take years to find acceptance, and begin the process of adjusting her lifestyle to incorporate healthy eating, good sleep habits and exercise. MS medications have improved since Sam was diagnosed, and she has cycled through 8 different medications over the years. Now Sam finds great joy working as an MS advocate, publicly sharing information about her disease as well as useful tips for others going through similar journeys.
Connect with Sam online at https://www.samanthasalvaggio.com/
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