A decade since my diagnosis of MS, it’s hard to see this documentary on its treatment

It might be considered cliché to call a documentary “unfazed”. It shows The New York Times describe Introducing Selma Blair, an account of the actress’ experience with multiple sclerosis (MS) and her journey through aggressive stem cell therapy in an attempt to manage her condition.

It is no exaggeration to say that I flinched. It took me several attempts to watch the 90 minute movie, not because the material was dull or heavy, but because it was so raw, shocking, and scary.

Blair is a powerhouse, deliciously eccentric and caustically funny, channeling Joan Crawford as she licks herself into a range of jeweled turbans.

During the first 10 minutes or so of the documentary, she is shown approaching her illness with black humor, in the middle of vaudeville with her cane in her hand (“It’s a really cool accessory”). But I have to pause the movie as I watch her body start to tick and spasm in front of the camera, her speech is scrambled – it’s no joke.

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I’m affected for a number of reasons – not least because it’s been exactly a decade since I started experiencing the symptoms that would lead to my own diagnosis of MS. I’m 10 years younger than Blair, 49, and it’s scary to see all the effects of MS portrayed this way, even more so in a familiar “Hollywood” figure.

Selma Blair undergoes chemotherapy and stem cell therapy to try to lessen some of the effects of MS

But if I feel fear, I also feel shame. What right do I have the right to talk about my condition in comparison? It’s like someone who has had a mild version of Covid-19 and spent a day sniffling in bed talking about their trauma while others have been on a ventilator or in a coma.

I am one of the lucky ones

Because I am one of the lucky ones. Diagnosed relatively early, at the age of 30, with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (a much milder form than Blair’s), I was quickly put on disease-modifying therapy, designed to minimize the risk of relapse. and hopefully delay any handicap.

The lameness I felt at the time of diagnosis disappeared as my relapse went into remission, my legs started to feel like they were part of my body again and I started yoga. and weight training to improve my balance, strength and flexibility. .

While at the time I feared the worst, I dared not dream that a decade later I would be in great shape, working, traveling and living fully.

This is not strictly true – of course, you dare to dream. When I was diagnosed someone told me (I can’t remember who, maybe a nurse or a doctor, or maybe I read it in the literature or online) that if I could go ten years without incident ”or relapse, I could be classified as having“ mild MS ”and stop taking medication. Almost like I’m doing it.

I was reminded of this recently, when my friend (who had held my hand for much of the diagnostic process) asked me if this important anniversary was approaching.

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But like a lot of these things, the goalposts seem to have moved. The idea these days is that even if you’ve gone 15 years without a major MS attack, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a relapse or progression of the disease.

The MS Society cautions that the term is not recommended “because it can only describe your past experience with MS, not whether you might relapse in the future.”

When I was diagnosed, I felt like I had no role model in the eyes of the public I could relate to. It’s remarkable that Selma Blair had the courage and generosity to share her experience, from her defiant glamor in her Instagram posts to this deeply personal documentary.

I have no doubt that anyone newly diagnosed who watches the movie will step back, but I think it’s important for them to know that MS is a big package, with many different outcomes.

That is why, yes, I am talking about my own condition here. And whatever the outcome for me, there is hope, love and life. Blair says in the documentary: “When I feel better, I really hope to be a better person.” Me too.

Introducing Selma Blair launches Thursday, October 21 on Discovery +

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