Kevin, 48, often recites one of his favourite quotes when he is grappling with the fact that he suffers from multiple sclerosis—a debilitating autoimmune disease impacting the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
“Acceptance is not spelled L-I-K-E.”
“I think that is brilliant,” he said, adding this simple message has helped him come to terms with the fact that although MS has represented a very real and complex change in his life, he has found ways to be adaptable and enjoy life to its fullest.
Kevin was 31-years-old and at the start of a promising career in information technology when he was diagnosed with MS. He had some familiarity with the disease, as his brother, aunt and first cousin had all been previously diagnosed. But with heredity and genetic predisposition to MS still unknown, Kevin was not expecting to be the next one in his family to learn he had MS.
“It was a shock. I didn't think I was going to be affected by that. And I had these perceptions of how debilitating it could be,” he said.
While the progress, severity and symptoms of MS vary greatly from person to person, Kevin had preconceived notions of what his experience with MS would be like. From extreme fatigue to partial or complete paralysis, he was bracing for the worst.
Showing of Symptoms
Symptoms began to appear in 2003, predominantly impacting his balance and gait. He started to feel a constant numbness all over his body, including his feet, which severely restricted his mobility. An avid runner, Kevin admits that 2004 was the last time he was able to run with his wife due to repeated stumbling and numbness, particularly on his left side.
“It's incapacitating. It's like mourning a loss all the time because there's a new normal and suddenly there's another thing you can do anymore. It's hard mentally,” he said.
No matter how incapacitating his symptoms became, Kevin, with the support and encouragement of his wife, decided the best way to remain resilient in the face of MS is to remain positive and live life to its fullest. The pair became frequent travellers, going on four trips per year to Europe, Asia and Central America. They made the conscious decision to invest in their lives instead of allocating more money for the mortgage or retirement.
While travelling the world and pursuing as many life-changing opportunities as possible, Kevin remained proactive in managing his MS. He tried acupuncture, six bouts of physiotherapy, chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) treatment and intravenous vitamin therapy. Dietary changes were also incorporated into his MS symptom management, including gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free alternatives. He also tried a number of high-dose supplements including alpha-lipoic acid, biotin and L-theanine, as well as cannabidiol (CBD) oil to help with his anxiety and spasticity issues. The standardized physiotherapy program was tailored to help with Kevin’s balance and gait issues, but he experienced very few benefits and admitted that at times, it was a blow to his confidence when the physiotherapists would ask him to do specific exercises beyond his capabilities.
By 2012, Kevin’s symptoms had intensified, with balance and gait issues remaining his primary issues.
“It really has been primarily a weakness in my left leg. I had a drop foot and I couldn’t lift my leg properly and so my lower back paid quite a price because I was trying to use it to do something it wasn’t designed to do, in lifting the leg,” he said.
After extensive research on MS treatments, Kevin’s wife discovered PoNS Treatment™, a 14-week program that combines the use of a non-surgical medical device to encourage neural activity with targeted therapeutic activities. He completed the program this year and noticed significant improvements in his gait, and in turn, his balance. After eight weeks, Kevin started to see improvements in his gait. Accustomed to dragging his left leg, Kevin could walk up the stairs left-leg first, a marked improvement from his pre- PoNS Treatment™ days. Before the treatment, Kevin also mentioned he would fall down at least once every two weeks. In the first few weeks of the treatment alone, he saw his falls decrease.
“I didn't really know how much hope to place in this because you plan for the worst, but hope for the best. And so I wasn't sure how far the device could take me. But the startling thing was...I really started to see improvements,” he said.
One Step at a Time
Kevin admits he tries not to get too optimistic when it comes to MS, considering there is no cure for the long-term autoimmune disease. However, the PoNS Treatment™ has resulted in improvements he did not expect to see with his balance, gait and mobility issues. Knowing that physiotherapy is such a key part of the PoNS Treatment™, Kevin had been discouraged by the lack of results from the previous six bouts of standardized physiotherapy programs he went through years prior. But pairing the physiotherapy with the PoNS Device™ was a game-changer and results were noticeable within a matter of weeks.
“It gives me hope for the future. It’s wonderful that there’s something you can do that is likely to have a positive result in MS.”
Disclaimer: The PoNS™ device is intended for use as a short term treatment (14 weeks) of gait deficit due to mild and moderate symptoms from MS and is to be used in conjunction with physical therapy. Individual patient results and experiences may vary.