PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A growing number of young people — especially women in their 20s and 30s — are being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Fortunately, there are several new treatments that allow many patients to live healthy lives.
MS can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be. A Philadelphia dancer thought her days on point were over when she was diagnosed, but you’d never know.
“For me, it was really important to tell this story,” Danielle Bourgeon said.
It’s a story about resilience, how dance helped the 34-year-old Bourgeon get her life back.
“I was completely paralyzed on my left side,” Bourgeon said.
The Philadelphia creative director was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago.
“It was really rough for me and it got really dark for me really fast, particularly when I was not able to walk,” she said. “I know it’s not a death sentence, but it feels like that.”
MS impacts the central nervous system. Symptoms include vision changes, pain and fatigue and they fluctuate.
“You don’t know what it’s going to take from you, you don’t know how it’s going to affect you, and living with that unknown and that level of unknown and uncertainty is very scary,” Bourgeon said.
Penn Medicine associate director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center Dr. Dina Jacobs says more young people are being diagnosed with MS.
Jacobs says they’ve gotten better at diagnosing MS, which could account for the growing numbers.
While there’s still no cure, MS can be well managed now that there are 17 different FDA approved treatments.
“It’s such an incredibly hopeful time,” Jacobs said. “The medications we have they have higher efficacy and they’re really making more of an impact.”
The new treatments — along with a good diet, exercise and stress control — have helped Bourgeon get back to dancing.
“It’s not a death sentence and it took me a while to figure that out,” she said.
Now with that attitude and feeling good, Bourgeon recently choreographed a dance about her journey called Made Stronger.
“I’m not MS and MS is not me,” she said. “I want to live my life as much as I can.”
Bourgeon is also reaching out to other newly diagnosed MS patients to let them known that their lives can be OK.
Doctors say it can be tricky to diagnose, but finding MS early and getting treated is the best way to limit and control symptoms.
Penn Medicine has a number of trials underway. You can find more information on the trials here.