MS Cure Fund’s Fall MS Health Fair super well attended!

MS Cure Fund held a free MS Health Fair November 22nd at the Westin Waltham Hotel in Waltham, MA.  Beautiful weather and three terrific speakers drew patients from as far as 150 miles, filling the room to capacity with over 200 attendees.  The day began with Dr. Eric Klawiter of Massachusetts General Hospital presenting “Mapping Brain Connections with MRI and MS”.  Until the development of the MRI in the mid 1980’s, MS was difficult to pinpoint.  Today’s MRI’s are producing images so detailed, that neuroscientists like Dr. Klawiter are beginning to see the exact pathways our brains use to think, move and have emotion.  Dr. Klawiter explained that by understanding where the brain signals pass, we will know how and why MS affects the central nervous system (CNS), and eventually, how it may be repaired.  This is an incredibly exciting area of research.  Dr. Klawiter is part of the National Institutes of Health funded Human Connectome Project.  One of the areas involved in the U.S. Government’s mandate to learn how the brain works.  This effort is very much like the global effort to map the human genome which continues to produce endless results and benefits for the treatment and understanding of the human body.  We look forward to future reports from Dr. Klawiter and his research.

Next up was Dr. Mark FreedmanDirector, Multiple Sclerosis Research UnitOttawa Hospital-General Campus.  Dr. Freedman has over 30 years experience treating and researching multiple sclerosis.  Dr. Freedman gave a very comprehensive presentation entitled “Betaseron to stem cells”.  We learned a great deal on the different classes of MS drugs, why and how they work as well as the time tested reliability of interferon.  A key point of Dr. Freedman’s presentation was the unmatched value of proper diet, exercise and rest.  He made the point that there is no drug, no treatment, nothing as effective for treating MS as taking good care of yourself.  “It is money in the bank”, Freedman said, “the more you put in, the more you will have to draw on when MS starts to progress”.  Dr. Freedman followed that with incredible results from his bone marrow transplant research.  The results show that the treatment virtually stops all new relapsing activity as observed upon clinical examination and brain MRI scans.  Dr. Freedman explained that the clinical trials call for the harvesting of a patient’s own stem cells from pocket areas found in their bone marrow.  Once harvested, the patient then undergoes intense chemotherapy to literally wipe out the entire immune system.  The patient then receives their own stem cells back by way of a bone marrow transplant.  As the immune system regenerates, no more MS progression.  Dr. Freedman was careful to caution attendees that this is a very serious and aggressive treatment option to be considered only when all other treatments have failed.  Dr. Freedman hopes to be able to begin trials in the U.S. in the future.

During lunch we were treated  to a moving and heartfelt sharing from Cynthia Brudnick, MS patient and advocate.  Cynthia shared her story from diagnosis  to present day.  Her message – “Don’t ever give up!”  Cynthia shared a story of advocating for herself, of not feeling sorry for herself, of looking forward, always.  Clearly Cynthia’s glass is more than half full, she is an inspiration to all people living with MS.

Our last speaker was John Marmarou, founder and president of Total Rehab & Fitness, Waltham, MA.  John has a doctorate degree in physical therapy and is a certified MS specialist by the CMSC (Consortium of MS Centers).  John gave a lively and in-depth presentation on the value, and need, of physical therapy for all patients diagnosed with MS.  John described various tests and evaluative steps he and his team use to access a patient.  His program goes so far beyond the 25 foot walk test we get at our neurologists every six months.  John also made excellent points of how very small and simple improvements in an MS patient’s mobility has a profound and beneficial affect on their overall quality of life.  It was also interesting to hear and learn that as MS presents differently in every MS patient, with no two ever being exactly alike, so too is the treatment plan for physical therapy for someone living with MS.  He described carefully the differences between an MS certified physical therapist and an untrained PT being similar to the difference between a general neurologist and a neurologist who specializes in MS.  Lastly John reiterated and emphasized what Dr. Freedman had stated, that nothing will be more beneficial in the fight against MS than good healthy habits.  Low salt intake, good cardiovascular health, don’t smoke, eat right, it was all there.  These were excellent words to live by and close the program with.

Before our speakers began, and again during breaks, attendees were treated to displays and services from over 20 vendors and pharmaceutical representatives.  From adaptive equipment for your home and vehicles to on-site massage services, there was a terrific show of support and opportunities to improve the lives of people living with MS.  A hearty thanks to all who displayed!

Lastly we would like to thank the volunteers and MS Cure staff who worked tirelessly to make this health fair possible.  Your efforts, once again, made the difficult appear easy and the challenging a breeze.  We are eternally indebted to you all and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We look forward to seeing you all there next time!