How to Talk to Someone Who Is Newly Diagnosed With MS

General Talking Tips for the Newly Diagnosed

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As a person living with multiple sclerosis, you will most likely be approached several times in your life by someone who has just found out they have MS. People who are still reeling from their diagnosis are often looking for a life raft to cling to while they figure this all out, often in the form of someone who has been dealing with MS for many years.

To someone who's newly diagnosed, a person who is living life with MS is like a beacon of hope.

You may have already read up on specific things to say (and not to say) to someone who just found out that they have multiple sclerosis. Here are a few more pointers. They may seem like common sense social skills, but they're worth knowing. In fact, they could prevent you from saying something regrettable.

Be honest and thorough in your answers.

Strive for completeness and try to fill in details as necessary, such as what has influenced your decisions in treatment options or how you cope with particular symptoms. Remember, newly-diagnosed people may not be aware of things that many of those who have been living with MS for years take for granted.

Try to stay “on message.”

For example, if someone wants to know the differences between certain CRAB drugs (Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, Betaseron), this is not the time to rage against big pharma or talk about your political views on embryonic stem cell research.

Don’t compare.

Sure, someone’s tingly feet may seem like nothing compared to your current symptoms, but it is probably a big deal to them. Sympathize with their discomfort and avoid the temptation to tell them that they are “lucky” that they are not dealing with a bigger list of problems.

Think back.

Try to remember what it was like immediately following your diagnosis.

You may have immediately focused on worst-case scenarios and stories of people in the news dying from MS-related complications. Respect people’s fear of the unknown, even if it might seem exaggerated from your perspective.

Give practical help.

If you know someone is going in for a Solu-Medrol drip, give them some mints to counteract that yucky steroid taste, or whatever works for you to deal with Solu-Medrol side effects. Offer to drive someone home from their MRI scan and take some socks along for them to wear while they are in “the tube.”

Be a good example.

We all need people to cry and complain to about the unfairness of this hideous disease. However, right now, people that are newly-diagnosed with MS may need us to be that person that is stable, strong and understanding. For the time being, take your own problems to someone else while you help your friend deal with his or her new reality. In time, this person will likely be a great companion to engage in a good “bitch session,” but let them get adjusted to their situation first.

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