This past Sunday, I had the honor of sitting down and chatting with Beth Prystowsky, fellow ChicagoNow blogger and author of Ups and Downs of a Yoga Mom and creator of Modern Day MS. Chatting with Beth, I was immediately struck by the air of calm, peacefulness, warmth, and genuineness that surround her. Beth and I had met previously, but for just a few minutes, yet speaking with Beth on Sunday, I felt like I was talking to a lifelong friend.
In early September 2012, Beth Prystowsky woke on a Saturday morning with numbness in her right hand and right foot and had a limp, which she later learned was drop foot. At a yoga class later that morning, she was also having trouble balancing and doing simple poses. That’s when she realized that something was truly off. After getting an MRI two days later and diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), she was hospitalized for five days, where she received steroid treatments that relieved the drop foot and the numbness in her hand.
MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide and is a neurological condition that breaks down myelin (the substance that protects nerves), thus allowing the body to attack itself. The damaged nerves then produce symptoms that vary in severity, including numbness and tingling, vision problems, balance and mobility problems, slurred speech, depression, and much more. Everyone experiences MS differently, so there is no “typical” MS. There is currently no cure for MS, although many people choose to treat their symptoms in a variety of ways including natural methods and modern medications.
In her search for online support, Beth found that there was a lot of misinformation that was overwhelming, but very little that provided actual facts and hope for how to not simply live with this chronic disease, but to thrive. She created Modern Day MS to create a safe, positive space for those living with MS and their families to share their stories, learn from and support one another, get factual information, and to simply realize that they are not alone. In fact, “you are not alone” is the website’s tagline.
According to Beth, a diagnosis of MS in 2015 “isn’t like your Grandma’s MS” because of all of the technological and medical advances in the last 20 or so years. Through Modern Day MS, Beth has met people from all around the world and their stories have become her inspiration.
Since her diagnosis, Beth has learned to focus on the big picture and her attitude of gratitude, let go of the small stuff, and to say no. She lives her life in a deliberate manner because she has to conserve her energy for the things that really matter to her. I think that’s an important lesson for all of us, whether we have MS or not and especially as women, to learn to let go of the negativity, be kinder to ourselves, and focus on the things that truly matter.
As a yoga instructor for 10 years, Beth believes that everyone should be doing yoga, but it’s even more important for people with MS. She says that although she can’t necessarily do all the poses, the philosophy of yoga of focusing on the here and now, listening to your body, and getting attuned to your breathing, has significantly helped reduce her symptoms. For example, if she wakes up and her feet are numb, she does poses and stretching to get the blood flowing into her feet. She also recommends meditation for the mental and emotional benefits it brings.
March was MS Awareness Month and Beth created the #RealPeopleWithMS campaign on Modern Day MS to share the stories of people with MS across the world, including Australia, Wales, Scotland, and throughout the United States. MS is often called an invisible disease because you don’t necessarily see that someone has it, and Beth felt compelled to put faces to the disease. Each of the participants answered the same four questions about when they were first diagnosed, the treatments they use, how MS has strengthened them, and what they think the future holds for MS. Finally, she asked them to share a quote that inspires them.
Beth hopes that through Modern Day MS, she helps to create awareness, understanding, and compassion for all people, not only those with MS. She says that everyone is dealing with their own stuff, mostly behind the scenes, and we all just need to be nicer to each other. Through her advocacy work, Beth is absolutely raising the bar on compassion, and I believe her work will have a ripple effect not only with the MS community but throughout the world.
Find Beth online:
- Ups and Downs of a Yoga Mom
- Modern Day MS
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