Running a Business with MS (Part 2 – Symptoms)

By Chris Mullen, January 4, 2020

My experience with MS has been relatively smooth sailing thus far. Thankfully, my doctors were able to discover and diagnose the disease early. Many others suffer far worse symptoms than I do, and I do not enjoy spending time complaining. However, the symptoms impact everything in my life, which is not an understatement.

The range of symptoms a person with MS may experience is diverse and unpredictable, and I will not bore you with all of the possibilities. The main symptoms I experience are fatigue, numbness, tingling, cognitive issues, and possibly mild depression. At this point, I am thankful not to be experiencing problems dealing with pain or the inability to walk.

Back before I was officially diagnosed, the numbness was very unfamiliar and scary. Hot water in the shower seemed cold throughout the entire left side of my body. Freezing canned sodas in our refrigerator would feel warm as if we just placed them in there. That numbness phase compelled me to visit the emergency room a couple of times in panic mode.

My greatest battle, for now, is dealing with fatigue. According to The National MS Society, about 80% of people with MS struggle with fatigue. Also, the fatigue that stems from MS is typically far more severe than what most people will experience. My daily routine for the last decade has become too cumbersome for my body now. I do not possess the same strength and ambition anymore, which can be a problem for a small business owner.

Before symptoms popped up, my days were long. I wake up at 5:30 am, get kids ready for school, go to work all day, come home, help get kids fed and put to bed, work from home, and then start over the next day. Now, I am tired by 3 or 4 pm, so I must be more calculating in how I spend my time. My days of working at the office twelve hours a day are long gone, and I do not see that kind of schedule ever reemerging ever again.

Another condition exacerbating my tiredness is mild sleep apnea. Combine that with MS, blood pressure medicine, and possibly depression for quite the cocktail. My mom teases my age is catching up to me, and maybe it is, but I feel this is more than that. Initially, I thought my blood pressure medicine, Losartan, was responsible. But after some trials, I ruled that out as a significant contributor. Glatiramer Acetate, my prescription to combat MS progression, can cause weakness, and I am not sure how much of that is affecting my experience.

Fatigue and this lack of ambition are weird feelings for me. It almost feels like a tiny piece of me is gone. I have become more reserved, and I often wonder if mild depression is setting in. These are not feelings I have spoken much about with anyone. Still, it may be worth exploring more with a professional if it escalates. I have spent so much of my life working hard to build our business, and now I could leave it all forever. Maybe this is temporary burnout, but I think the fatigue is beginning to overcome my rationality.

Luckily, I have the luxury to depend on employees I trust. As an entrepreneur, those relationships are critical. My condition forces me to reevaluate how I participate as the owner of a busy online print company, which may work out positively for the next year. I spend more time on the big picture, marketing, and finances and stay removed from the daily grind. This past year, sales remained plateaued, but my new schedule allows me to focus on future strategies. At least that is the plan.

I am researching ways to combat fatigue. There are medicines like Provigil and Nuvigil that could boost my energy. Occupational or physical therapy could be an option, as well. For now, I am focusing on sleep management and curbing the apnea. I also intend to talk more with my doctor at my next appointment.

If you missed the first chapter, read Running a Business with MS (Part 1 – Discovery) now.