Refusing to Let MS Win: Charlotte Anderson's Story
After receiving her MS diagnosis in 2016, Charlotte Anderson has fought back with help from the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center.
No matter what type of exercise she chooses, Charlotte Anderson loves to get her blood pumping – for the obvious health benefits and for how it helps manage her multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.
“For me, exercise just helps my body overall, and that helps me mentally,” she says. “I do high-intensity training three to four days a week. I love doing weights, and I love running. I feel great when I’m done.”
MS is an unpredictable disease that occurs when the body’s own defense system attacks the myelin that protects the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Charlotte explains that the disease can be physically and mentally draining.
“I also sit and do brain exercises, and my brain gets fatigued,” she says. “I have this feeling of pressure in my head. It’s like a fog.”
The staff at the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center has been working with the 43-year-old Atlanta resident since March 2018.
“I love everything Shepherd Center has to offer,” she says. “I love everyone there. It’s a great facility.”
Charlotte’s MS first showed up when she experienced a seizure in 2016. Even after her diagnosis, she says, the symptoms were not that bad for the first four years. Now, she sometimes has pain from her knees to her feet that makes walking difficult and causes hand tremors, vision problems and cognitive difficulties.
“My long-term memory is good,” she says. “But I could have a conversation with you today, and if you ask me about it tomorrow, I might only remember a little of it. Then six months from now, I would remember more.”
What keeps her going is an indomitable spirit, a refusal to give in and the people she calls the highlights of her life: son Jalon, 25; daughter Chloe, 11; and granddaughter Khloe.
In addition to regular speech, recreation and occupational therapy at Shepherd Center, Charlotte participates in two of the hospital’s research studies: One to learn more about the long-term effects of MS treatments like Ocrevus®, which she credits with slowing her symptoms, and one for measuring how effectively a new tool can evaluate MS symptoms. Lending her experience to studies like this makes her feel like she is taking control of fighting the disease.
“If you let MS control your mental and emotional states, it wins,” she says. “And I refuse to let MS win.”
Written by Phil Kloer
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.