Sean Giblin often tells callers to MS Focus: the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation’s helpline, “When it comes to MS, if you haven’t got it, you don’t get it.” But Sean does get it. He understands what it means to have MS, especially the unique challenges of getting an MS diagnosis in your teens.
Sean is a support service coordinator at MS Focus. He speaks to people with MS to offer them guidance and resources. Now in his late 20s, Sean was diagnosed at age 16.
Anything but normal
“Being diagnosed in my sophomore year of high school, I just really didn’t think about it too much,” Sean says. At first, he carried on with normal high school life: studying, learning to drive and hanging out with friends. But Sean’s MS turned out to be an aggressive form of the disease. “My type of MS was a complete switch-up,” he says. “When it starts to affect you hardcore, like it did with me, everything just gets put on hold. Things get way more difficult.”
By junior year, Sean had a port surgically placed in his chest for a procedure called plasma exchange. He often had to leave school early for doctors’ appointments. “Friends would ask about it and when I’d show them, they’d say, ‘That does not look like fun.’ I would agree with that,” he says. “It’s definitely not fun. Maybe one or two of them couldn’t handle it and dropped out of my life. But in general, they were pretty cool with me.”
With good friends, supportive parents, and a lot of determination, Sean pushed through. “For me, the thing that made me feel the best was getting my diploma,” he says. “They called my name, and I walked across the stage with my walker. The cheers I got really surprised me. I didn’t realize that many people cared. I really felt the appreciation for what I went through to get to that point.”
Today, Sean has a message for teens who are diagnosed with MS: “Life is not over. You’re on a roller coaster. It will be up and down, up and down. Read about MS so you understand what it’s doing to your body and how to manage it.” And if you need to talk to someone who gets it, call the MS Focus helpline (888-673-6287) and chat with Sean.
Kasey Minnis, Director of Communications, Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, [email protected]