Multiple. System. Atrophy. Even if you know nothing about MSA, stringing those three words together doesn’t sound promising.
MSA is a neurodegenerative disorder that’s characterized by autonomic nervous system failure. It affects men and women in equal numbers, and the onset occurs usually between the ages of 50 and 60.
Like so many other rare diseases, there is no cure; scientists don’t even know what causes it, although it’s suspected that the build-up of certain protein in the brain causes nerve cells to die off.
So, what are the symptoms?
Fainting spells and loss of bladder control are common; walking and balancing becomes difficult, speech begins to slur, and motor skills are lost. Eventually patients become bedridden with this terminal diagnosis.
MSA is progressive, and there are no periods of remission. If this sounds pretty grim, it is.
So where is the silver lining to MSA? It might be embodied in a man named Earl Cutter.
Earl is a language teacher who was nearing retirement, when he suddenly lost his balance and fell. This was way out of the ordinary, so he immediately started looking for answers. And then, he got the answer nobody wants to hear. You have MULTIPLE SYSTEM ATROPHY. Earl and his wife were told of the prognosis, but they decided to live with optimism.
Earl continues to inspire his friends and family, not looking back at the life he used to have, but rather he stays in the moment.
Last summer, he and a friend went swimming, and Earl had a moment of freedom. He was able to walk in the water without the threat of falling.
And for someone who embraces each moment, that was a wonderful moment to embrace.
To learn more about Earl Cutter and his fight with MSA, click here.