One in three women are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis every year. Beth Caudill is one such person. She’s a very active individual in the Lantana / Denton area. If you saw her on the street you wouldn’t know that she’s suffering from MS, an autoimmune disease. Her initial reaction to her diagnoses was disbelief, “Well I thought all kinds of things that wouldn't be appropriate to say. Mostly, I thought the doctors were wrong because, I'm me, this can't happen to me. I'm the rock!” she explained.According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed. The root cause of the disease is unknown and there is no cure. Beth was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 46. She believes she may have had it for years before seeking medical advice. “The Trigger for me was - I was out in the sun on a 100 degree day, signing up for women's soccer of all things, and it turned into a massive migraine on top of the other stuff, I was dizzy, unbalanced, and started seeing double vision,” she added.
MS is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. After being diagnosed, Beth started her own research and shared her findings, “Multiple Sclerosis is a disorder where the body begins attacking itself because it thinks what's inside is foreign. So it attacks the myelin sheath (sleeves of fatty tissue that protect your nerve cells) or the nerve and causes a bleed, which is also called a lesion. Depending on where that is on the body or brain, determines what affects you,” she said.
No single test at this time can determine if a person has MS. The NMSS lists several strategies that doctors use to help rule out other diseases or confirm a MS diagnosis, such as a neurologic exam, and various tests including blood, spinal fluid analysis and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Early on, Beth underwent an initial MRI scan, “I have 5 lesions, 4 in the brain and 1 in the spine. These can only be detected by an MRI. I have to have multiple MRI's annually depending on how my body is acting at the time,” she explained.
Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. Living with MS affects people in different ways. Some people, like Beth, get frequent migraines, others become severely disabled and end up in a wheelchair, fortunately most don’t according to the NMSS.Beth revealed that living with MS is challenging, “I still do a lot or try to. Just physically, I cannot do what I used to do. 10,000 steps a day used to be normal and now not really possible. So the mind is willing, but the body does not cooperate.” she said.
As stated earlier, there is no known cause of the disease but scientists believe MS is triggered by a combination of factors, and research is being done in the area of immunology, epidemiology, genetics and infectious agents to possibly identify the cause.Medications are prescribed to modify the disease course, treat relapses and manage symptoms. Along with a doctor’s approved comprehensive plan, medications help people manage their MS and enhance their comfort. Symptoms are different and can change or fluctuate over time. While one person might experience only one or two of the symptoms another person may experience many others. Even seasonal changes can affect people as Beth explained, “I can't tell you when it's going to increase and hurt but there is something about Texas weather that just gets me not in the right way. It's the heat and oven like weather that will put me over the edge and incapacitate me for days on end.”
For Beth it helps to have an understanding family. Her husband of 26 years, Barry; two grown sons, Andrew (24), and Ryan (21), and their furry pup Charlee Brown are all in her corner. “They know that when I'm walking downstairs, I need someone in front of me to be able to gage it. They know if I get a migraine, all hell has broken loose in my body and they need to make me stop or be my eyes, ears and everything else for a couple of days. I can't imagine doing this without my family's support,” she said.
Despite her limitations, Beth pushes on. She is a full time top level realtor in the community, top 1-2% of all realtors (Best of Denton 2019 and Best of D Magazine Top Producer 2020) , serves on the Board of Realtors as Vice President for upcoming year, and is active in volunteering in the Lantana and Denton community. As someone who’s used to leading an active lifestyle, she realized she has to slow down. “I'm not really a slow down sort of person. I used to play women's soccer , active in spinning, and running. I can't do that stuff now. It's so sad. Basically, I have had to reevaluate and stop, she added.
Since the founding of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 1946, a lot of progress has been made. Prior to that, the disease took years to diagnose and there were no treatment plans to slow its course. Now there is much greater awareness and many of those afflicted have a better quality of life. Breakthroughs are being made, thanks to research and more available resources, with the hope that one day MS will be preventable.
Reaching out to others with the disease and finding ways to help with MS causes has given Beth renewed focus. With a full life and supportive family, Beth has learned to live the best she can with MS. “This is the card I was dealt. Everyone is going to have something. I just happened to figure mine out,” she explained.
Beth is always open to talking to people who want to know more about the disease and what she goes through, “So I am not an invalid or incapable, some days might be harder than others, she explained, “I just want people to know they have someone they can turn to, I would be happy to help you. Helping people is the reason I'm here.”
For more information about Multiple Sclerosis go to nationalmssociety.org.