After nearly 30 years of dealing with symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Diana Dowacter has learned to roll with the punches.
“I’m the type of person who says do your best, learn to cope with it and move on. My motto is, it could always be worse,” Diana, who lives in Macomb, said.
Because MS is a disease that affects the brain and central nervous system, its symptoms can be unpredictable – from pain and itching to muscle spasms, trouble speaking or swallowing.
Most people with MS experience what’s called a relapsing-remitting disease course, meaning symptoms “flare” or come on over the course of several days or weeks. Those flare-ups are followed by periods of remission, where symptoms improve.
But for Diana, problems with her vision started in September 2018 and only got worse.
“By November I was like something is seriously wrong,” she said.
“I would get to the point that I had to cover my eyes and not use them, or use an ice pack or heat. I’d be down for hours or sometimes the whole day with it.”
A worsening problem
A visit to her neurologist at OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute in Peoria revealed lesions on her optic nerve, causing her deteriorating vision and photosensitivity – a painful sensitivity to light.
An ophthalmologist confirmed she had chronic optic neuritis, optic atrophy, primary open angle glaucoma and extreme photosensitivity. Her best corrected vision is 20/300 in the right eye and 20/800 in the left eye, far beyond the threshold for legal blindness.
They had some recommendations for supports that could help Diana: amber colored glasses to block bright lights and magnifiers to help her read. But Diana procrastinated because she knew she couldn’t afford the expensive equipment.
She brought her troubles up during an appointment in the OSF INI MS Center, and a nurse named Ann Hadley told Diana those costs may be covered by the MS Fund – a charitable fund available through the MS Council and OSF HealthCare Foundation to cover costs associated with MS.
“It was perfect timing,” Diana said. “If it wasn’t for Anne bringing up the MS Fund, I wouldn’t have any of what I have now.”
‘A huge difference’
Diana was able to request funds for specialized glasses and two high-power magnifiers, one for home and a portable device to use on the go. The MS Fund was able to cover the cost – more than $4,000 – for the equipment she needed.
“What the MS Fund did for me was life-changing. It has allowed me to be able to function – to be able to see, to be able to read. And not to be in so much pain, as far as the photo sensitivity. I’m highly grateful for that,” Diana said.
“That makes a huge difference in a person’s spirit.”