Mom with MS: Navigating the Unpredictable Road of Parenthood with a Chronic Illness

Busy moms help run the world. Whether working full-time outside the home, or full-time inside the home, moms are dedicated to meeting the countless needs of their families. We often see stories about moms who navigate the equal parts demanding and rewarding responsibilities of motherhood, but what’s often missing from this conversation is how moms handle the challenges that fall outside of these more universal topics of discussion, like being an engaged and present parent while living with a chronic illness, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

As a mother of three, Joelle Scarloch is familiar with the demands of parenting – but in addition to raising three children, she is also living with relapsing MS, an unpredictable and often debilitating disease. The disease affects Joelle’s central nervous system, disrupting the flow of information within her brain, and between her brain and body. Symptoms vary from person to person, but Joelle has experienced overwhelming fatigue and difficulties with walking, which made keeping up with her children more difficult. Her relapsing MS has also caused problems with swallowing and bladder control, preventing her from attending family events and even running everyday errands.

“It’s a constant balance, being a mother and keeping my relapsing MS under control,” says Joelle. “But, it’s important to me that I do not let it hold me back from spending time with my family.”

At just fourteen years old, Joelle lost her own mother to complications related to MS, so when she received her diagnosis on her 38th birthday, she strived to be a good role model for her children, just as her mother had been for her.

Joelle knows that being a great mom starts with taking care of herself, so she can best provide the attention and care her family needs. After discussions with her physician and careful consideration of the risks and benefits of treatment, Joelle began taking AUBAGIO® (teriflunomide 14 mg), a once-daily oral disease modifying therapy to help treat her relapsing MS. Joelle first got blood work done to ensure she was not pregnant and to check her liver enzymes and had a TB test. Joelle scheduled her follow up and lab appointments, including a monthly blood test to check her liver function, which is required for the first six months.

“I get MRIs routinely. I can proudly report that since starting my current treatment, I’ve had no new lesions and no relapses. I feel like those reports are like good grades,” says Joelle. “In my discussions with my doctor, we talked about AUBAGIO’s safety profile and he told me that the most common side effects were headache, diarrhea, nausea, hair thinning or loss, and abnormal liver test results. When I first began treatment, I did experience hair thinning, but then it slowed down and now it has resolved. It was something that was noticeable to me but if you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t notice.”

Treatments for relapsing MS carry with them benefits as well as risks, and Joelle encourages people living with relapsing MS or other illnesses to work closely with their physicians to better understand any treatment side effects or risks, as each person’s treatment goals and response may vary.

Joelle is determined to be as active in her children’s lives as possible. In addition to prioritizing her overall health, Joelle says she follows three important tips to help her balance managing her relapsing MS with life as a busy mom:

  • Know the importance of communication: Joelle encourages her kids to ask questions and is honest with them about her symptoms and challenges. She stays realistic about her disease and communicates with her husband and children when she is not feeling well.
  • Identify your support system: “My family and friends help get me through the ups and downs,” she says. “I rely on them and my doctor to help me manage my disease and stay positive.”

    Joelle also deeply appreciates the support of other parents in her community. “Many of them may have encountered their own personal hardships, and find a way to relate to some of the challenges I face as a result of my relapsing MS,” explains Joelle. “I do my best to support them when they need help, and they do the same for me.”

  • Plan your week ahead if possible: Known for always being prepared, Joelle was jokingly called a “girl scout” growing up. She always had a bag on-hand of things her family may need, loving the feeling of being the one to save the day. Nowadays, she still carries her “bag of tricks,” but fills it with contents for herself, which she says is the key for reducing anxiety about being in public when her symptoms act up. Key items she advises all busy moms, especially those living with MS, to have on-hand are: cold bottles of water to keep cool and hydrated, a cell phone with any treatment reminders entered in, and an organized to-do list to help plan ahead and determine a good time to rest up.

    “Planning ahead and pacing myself is a huge help in making sure I can keep up,” Joelle says. “I track my children’s upcoming events, and make it a priority to rest ahead of time so I can participate. It’s about maintaining my own personal ‘energy bank’ so that I can be as present as possible when it counts.”

Balancing it all is certainly no small feat, but Joelle says she is managing it just fine. “I don’t let my relapsing multiple sclerosis define me,” says Joelle. “I try to be involved in my children’s lives, because I’m their mother first and I want to be a good role model for them, just as my mother was for me.”

Joelle is an MS One to One® Ambassador. MS One to One® Ambassadors are compensated by Genzyme and participate in speaking events and other opportunities across the country.

INDICATION

AUBAGIO® (teriflunomide) is a prescription medicine used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

DO NOT TAKE AUBAGIO IF YOU:

  • Have severe liver problems. AUBAGIO may cause serious liver problems, which can be life-threatening. Your risk may be higher if you take other medicines that affect your liver. Your healthcare provider should do blood tests to check your liver within 6 months before you start AUBAGIO and monthly for 6 months after starting AUBAGIO. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of these symptoms of liver problems: nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, tiredness, yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes, or dark urine.
  • Take a medicine called leflunomide for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Are pregnant. AUBAGIO may harm an unborn baby. You should have a pregnancy test before starting AUBAGIO. After stopping AUBAGIO, continue to use effective birth control until you have made sure your blood levels of AUBAGIO are lowered. If you become pregnant while taking AUBAGIO or within 2 years after stopping, tell your healthcare provider right away and enroll in the AUBAGIO Pregnancy Registry at 1-800-745-4447, option 2.
  • Are of childbearing potential and not using effective birth control.

    It is not known if AUBAGIO passes into breast milk. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if you should take AUBAGIO or breastfeed — you should not do both at the same time.

    If you are a man whose partner plans to become pregnant, you should stop taking AUBAGIO and talk with your healthcare provider about reducing the levels of AUBAGIO in your blood. If your partner does not plan to become pregnant, use effective birth control while taking AUBAGIO.

AUBAGIO may stay in your blood for up to 2 years after you stop taking it. Your healthcare provider can prescribe a medicine that can remove AUBAGIO from your blood quickly.

Before taking AUBAGIO, talk with your healthcare provider if you have: liver or kidney problems; a fever or infection, or if you are unable to fight infections; numbness or tingling in your hands or feet that is different from your MS symptoms; diabetes; serious skin problems when taking other medicines; breathing problems; or high blood pressure. Your healthcare provider will check your blood cell count and TB test before you start AUBAGIO. Talk with your healthcare provider if you take or are planning to take other medicines (especially medicines for treating cancer or controlling your immune system), vaccines, vitamins or herbal supplements.

AUBAGIO may cause serious side effects, including: reduced white blood cell count — this may cause you to have more infections; numbness or tingling in your hands or feet that is different from your MS symptoms; serious skin problems; breathing problems (new or worsening); and high blood pressure.

The most common side effects when taking AUBAGIO include: headache; diarrhea; nausea; hair thinning or loss; and abnormal liver test results. These are not all the side effects of AUBAGIO. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effect that bothers you.

Consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about your health or any medications you may be taking, including AUBAGIO.

You are encouraged to report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please visit www.aubagio.com for full Prescribing Information, including boxed WARNING and Medication Guide.

GZUS.AUBA.15.05.1247


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