Running a Business with MS (Part 1 – Discovery)

By Chris Mullen, November 6, 2019

Usually, I do not get very personal on our business blog. I try to keep articles light, fun, and helpful for entrepreneurs and artists. However, this past year’s experience has reshaped my business practices and goals, which may or may not be inspiring or intriguing to other entrepreneurs or people facing health challenges. It is entirely possible, I need to start a journal documenting my experiences solely for therapeutic purposes.

Last year, out of the blue, I experienced light numbness throughout half my body. In the shower, I could not feel water hit one of my legs. While grabbing a drink from the fridge, I would notice everything felt warm despite being ice cold. Part of my body would feel very hot, yet the air conditioning in our home was working fine. At first, I thought maybe I experienced a stroke or heart attack, but after a year of tests and hospital visits, my doctor finally diagnosed me with Multiple sclerosis.

I remember the first day I ever thought I might have MS. Before the weird sensations began occurring, I noticed a sudden and apparent vision degradation in my right eye. Initially, I thought the loss stemmed from viewing a solar eclipse that same day. I had seen the eclipse through special glasses, but I was worried the device might have been faulty. Almost immediately, I met with an optometrist who discovered I was suffering from optic neuritis, inflammation that damages the optic nerve, and referred me to a retina specialist. The doctor’s face countenance told me something was up. That same night, Google revealed optic neuritis as a common symptom of MS. Also, my grandfather suffered from MS for half his life, so my mind was beginning a process of acceptance.

Through the next year, I would face multiple tests like angiograms, blood work, and MRI’s. The retina specialist thought MS could be a possibility, but he referred me to a neurologist for further examination. After three more MRI’s, months of symptoms, and consistent appointments, a second neurologist at MUSC was finally willing to give an official diagnosis – a huge relief. Thankfully, we seem to have caught the disease in very early stages, which gives me hope we can manage future symptoms.

But symptoms exist even at this early stage. For me, symptoms include fatigue, limb numbness, weakness, forgetfulness, and mood swings. These symptoms affect my personal life as a father, son, and husband. But the condition also affects me as an entrepreneur, and the disease is changing my overall perspective and execution of being a leader that is not necessarily all bad.

Part 2 coming soon.

What is MS?

MS is a progressive disease of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). In MS, the loss of myelin (demyelination) is accompanied by a disruption in the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain. This produces the various symptoms of MS. The sites where myelin is lost (plaques or lesions) appear as hardened (scar) areas: in multiple sclerosis, these scars appear at different times and in different areas of the brain and spinal cord. The term multiple sclerosis means ‘many scars’. You can quickly learn more about MS at msif.org.