Research promises new treatment for devastating disease
By: Crystal Britt
By: Crystal Britt
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Medical breakthroughs on the horizon could soon make life a lot easier for those living with Multiple Sclerosis. Right now about 400,000 Americans have Multiple Sclerosis and more than 750 have MS in southeast Missouri alone. As of now, the cause remains unknown, and there is no cure. But, new research gives people living with the disease a new found hope.
There are a lot of new things in Krystal Hexamer's life. She's a new teacher, loving every minute of her job at Deer Creek Christian Academy in Cape Girardeau. She talks about her students often, and the career that motivates her everyday. But, what you'll rarely hear her speak of is the inner battle she fights. Regular doctors appointments are now quite common for Krystal. It all started last May. "It felt like my arm was asleep for about four days, and I thought it would be too long", said Hexamer. Several tests, and two months later...she found out she has Multiple Sclerosis.
Doctor Harold Moses, Jr. treats patients like Krystal at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. MS is thought to be an auto immune disease. The body's own defense system attacks what's called myelin, something that protects the nerves. The damage causes scarring or Sclerosis. "Overtime people can have problems with their walking, they can have trouble controlling their bowels, their bladder, and their balance. They can have trouble with their thinking", said Dr. Moses. For Krystal, right now it's numbness...and certain things like heat trigger relapses. "I have to stay away from hot water, hot tubs, hot showers. Hair dryers I can't use. My last relapse happened from hot water in one of those mall automatic sinks", said Hexamer.
People with MS only have one way to control the disease...through injections. Krystal dreads the time, three days a week when she has to inject herself with medicine...medicine that won't cure her, but hopefully keeps her from getting sicker. That's where exciting new research comes in. "I would predict, in five years we'll probably have 4-5 new treatments for MS. Some of those are going to be oral", said Dr. Moses. Krystal says, "To get away from the needles...just having a pill you could take would be great."
Until then researchers are also trying to pinpoint a cause. It might be genetic, and it could be environmental. Doctor Moses says most of the cases come from the northern part of the country. Krystal grew up in northern Iowa. Now, she'll spend the rest of her life fighting. "MS does not go into remission, it doesn't go away like some people have with their cancer", said Dr. Moses. Despite the life sentence, the young teacher has so much to live for. She has a lesson in understanding anyone could learn from. "I guess we just get it because we can handle it and the people that couldn't handle it probably wouldn't get it", said Hexamer.
Meanwhile, local organizations are fighting for a cure, and they need your help. Sharon Hileman is the Community Development Manager for the Gateway Chapter at the regional office in Cape Girardeau. She has a close family member with MS and like so many is passionate about this fight. "The research is so important we are so close to finding a cure, and those research dollars, we put a majority toward research. We also offer wonderful programming for the newly diagnosed...those who've been living with MS for years and for their caregivers", said Hileman.