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Going through changes

Even though most people with MS don’t come from a family or lifestyle as high profile as the Osbournes, there are aspects of Jack Osbourne’s diagnosis that will be familiar to many.

Over reaction
As the individual comes to terms with their diagnosis, they can sometimes be put off letting others know due to fear of how they will react. Awareness of MS tends to be poor and if people have heard of the condition, many will only think of it in the bleakest terms and more extreme cases. Although the UK press coverage seems to have been quite measured in its response, some stories around the world have perhaps been overly dramatic. The cover of People Magazine, one of the original sources where the news of the diagnosis was announced, describes Jack as ‘fighting to save his vision, his future, his life‘.

The coverage has led to a number of stories from people with MS, giving a more balanced view of life with the condition (eg Alasdair Palmer in the Daily Telegraph,Richard Price in the Daily Mail and Frances Medley in the Western Mail). Jack himself seems to have found some of the coverage overbearing, posting a message on Twitter “Dear journalists…will you please stop sensationalizing my situation to sell ur poorly written magazines and papers. I AM NOT DYING!”

Effects on parents
Whilst Jack seems to be facing life with MS in a pragmatic way, his mother has been showing a more emotional side. Many people with MS, and indeed parents of people with MS, may recognise this from their own experience. Coming to terms with MS in an adult child can be extremely difficult. The strong urge to protect, to ‘mother’, someone who is finding their own way to live their life with the condition can be as frustrating as it is emotionally draining. Jack is 26 – a father himself – who will find his own way to live with MS. Whilst his family will be a great source of support, it is up to Jack to turn to them for help when he needs them. As difficult as it can be for parents not to wrap their child in cotton wool, the best support they can offer is the knowledge that they will be there when their son or daughter needs to turn to them for help.

Added to this is the worry that it is something that you have done in the past that has led to your child developing this condition – a fear voiced by Sharon Osbourne. The cause of MS remains unknown, but is generally though to be some combination genes and an environmental trigger. There is no single gene associated with developing MS, though a number that increase the risk a little have been identified. If someone has the right combination of genes, MS may be triggered by exposure to something in the environment. Again, this trigger (or triggers) has not been identified, although there is an association between MS and exposure to the Epstein Barr virus, the common virus that causes glandular fever. There is also interest in the effect of deficiency of vitamin D and risk of developing MS, although this may not apply in Jack Osbourne’s case. He was born in London but spent half of his childhood living in southern California.

The diagnosis with MS of someone as public as Jack Osbourne has certainly raised the profile of multiple sclerosis. As his family comes to terms with the implications of his diagnosis, the press coverage will have made more people aware of the condition, perhaps more widely than could be achieved with the recent MS Awareness Week. If more people now know about MS, have had some of their misconceptions about the condition challenged and are aware that it can affect people in wide variety of ways, then some good will have come from this very public coverage of one family’s difficult situation.

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