Accommodation you ask? Why that’s only for special cases.

I have been wanting to write this post for some time, but in all honesty this was such an anxiety causing problem for me all summer that I only feel ok now to share my story. The short and long: I needed to seek accommodation at my last place of employment due to my MS and never in a thousand years could I have imagined how it went. I am proud that I managed to walk away from this mess with my head held high, despite wanting to further fight this, but what is the fight really worth? It came to a point that I realized that I would not want to work for an employer that discriminates against their staff. When I first got diagnosed with MS I heard horror stories of people being discriminated by their employers and I thought who on earth would be that awful?! It was a real shocker to find myself now at the center of one of those stories.

In March I had a routine MRI and two weeks before I was to return to work I went to see my neurologist to get the results and have a check up post baby. Since having my son I had really hard days riddled with pain and weakness, some days I felt like I couldn’t even hold him as I was not strong enough. I write this with tears on my face, as no mother wants to feel like she is too weak to hold her child.

When I went to see my Neurologist I told her of the pain, and I broke down as I was worried to hear that this could indeed be my MS being active. I expressed to her how terrible I had been feeling and told her I was not sure if what I was feeling was post partum changes in my body or MS, or a combo of both. After examining me she confirmed that it was indeed my MS that was to blame. She then showed me the results of my MRI, which was not that great. I had new lesions and she was worried about the progression of the disease in my body based on the symptoms I had described. She suggested that I ask my work for a few more weeks off to figure out what would be best next steps for me and she suggested that if I decided to return to work that I ask them for an accommodated work schedule.

I loved my job and I had always intended to return to work. I drove home with tears streaming down my face the entire way, scared of what could be brewing in my body, worried about my job security and sad that as a new mother I had this MS jerk in the way of me enjoying my son the way I wanted to. That same evening I tried to pull it together to call my supervisors to discuss my options. I had always had a good relationship with my place of work and was a good employee so I didn’t think there would be a problem. He was not there so I left a message letting him know that I needed to talk to him ASAP about my health and how it might affect my return to work, I followed up with an email. Almost nine days later I still hadn’t heard back, sorry but that’s just rude. I get that people are busy but when an employee leaves a message saying it’s health related, there should be some urgency to your repsonse. I called and left another email, and the reply I finally got was that he was too busy and the acting supervisor would call me.

When I finally spoke to the acting supervisor and explained the situation, I let her know that I wanted to return to work but I would like to see if I could seek accommodation to work from home two days a week (I worked four days a week) her answer was and I quote “I am not sure as we usually only reserve the right to work from home for special cases.” UMMMMM SPECIAL CASES? How special is special because I am pretty sure that a letter from a neurologist is pretty special!

I was so upset and we ended the call with nothing solved. My neurologist had connected me with a Social Worker at the MS clinic to help advocate on my behalf, and when she called to speak to my acting supervisor she too was told the same thing, that working from home was for ‘special cases’ and she offered this suggestion: I quit my job and come back as an auxiliary employee and work casually at the front desk. Apparently this would me flexibility to work when I felt well. UMMMM WTF! I could not believe my ears when my social worker told me this. So let me get this straight: leave my job of almost 8 years, go to a role four pay scales less than what I earned, loose my benefits and all job security and work on call?! Not to mention what about my contributions related to my current role being valued? Work on call? How on earth would I get childcare last minute? My Social Worker let me know that they were violating the Human Rights Code (Duty to Accommodate) and at that point suggested I file a formal complaint.

By this point we were already two months in and nothing was decided and I kept asking for my sick pay, which they would not answer my request for, not even to let me know if I had access to any. Finally I got my Union involved who also confirmed there was a violation based on the Human Rights Code and they wrote my employer a letter telling them I was entitled to my sick pay (I had 160 hours banked!) and reminded them that they had a duty to accommodate. I would like to thank my CUPE 15 representative, had it not been for him I am not sure I would have received my sick pay.

The battle went on and truthfully I began to put my head in the sand. I felt so hurt that I was being discriminated against as a person living with a disability and chronic illness. I decided to seek legal advice who confirmed that my employer had acted unjustly and that I could put in a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and even go after my employer for lost wages and the discrimination that they displayed. They also told me it could be a long battle and for me to think about the energy I had to take this further. My health was suffering, I was riddled with anxiety and I just wanted to end this all.

Not only was I dealing with the results of the MRI at the back of my mind, but all this too now. To add salt to the wound one of my fellow employee’s, who I called a friend, called me one day and told me that it appeared at work that I was ‘milking it.’ That‘s a pretty skinny cow because I was not getting a penny! I was shocked he would even suggest such a thing. Not to mention how would he have heard anything as I had only spoke to the acting supervisor.

My lawyer helped me write a letter detailing all that happened in which was sent to upper management. Two weeks passed and not one of the four I sent it to responded. I continued to feel disrespected by my employer, and question if I really wanted to spend time away from my child in a place like that? After much thought I finally decided to hand in my resignation, with yet another letter letting them know why I was leaving; I had been discriminated against as a person with MS in need of accommodation and did not want to work for an employer that had no time for their employee’s. I encouraged them to review their hiring practices when putting people in supervisor positions and that they be trained on employee rights and the duty to accommodate. I suggested that staff and management engage in sensitivity training and that I hoped no other employee would have to face the rudeness and discrimination I had to.

There are many more ugly details to this story that make it go from bad to worse but the important details have been stated. You must be thinking how can there be more, right? Like the Acting Manager gossiping at a dinner party about wanting to get my fired to her friend in front of someone that she had no clue knew me, using my first and last name. Smooth move there Mrs. Manager, smooth move. I have left names out on purpose when writing this post as my goal is not to point fingers at any specific person or the organization; if you really want to know who these people are I am sure a quick visit to LinkedIN will help answer those questions for you. Upper Management did eventually tell me (three weeks ago) that they were looking into this issue but by that time it was just two late (this all started in May!) If they had a solution, by that point I was no longer interested. I write this to close the chapter in the pain this caused me, to share with others that this still happens and let people know we have rights! Not only was I discriminated against as someone with a disability, but also as a woman returning off her maternity leave, and this was also stated by my Union rep and my lawyer. I made some mistakes along the way as I was not thinking clearly, mostly forgetting to follow up with emails and try and get as much as possible in writing. I hope my tips below will help others should they ever be in this awful position.

A few tips if you ever find yourself in this situation:

  • Accommodation is a legal right that all employers are obligated to fulfill. PERIOD.
  • If you are part of a Union go to them right away! They are helpful.
  • Write everything down and keep a folder of all emails (luckily I did this).
  • Send follow up emails after phone calls.
  • Know that you have rights and the employer is legally bound to accommodate you based on the Employment Law Act and the Human Rights Code.
  • Get a lawyer! Even if to settle your mind, get some feedback and help with the support you might need during this time. I am extremely grateful to the legal advice I was given and the support they offered me.
  • Don’t feel bad to send a letter letting people know that they are wrong. You have the right to express yourself and hold people accountable for their actions.

Lastly I want to say thank you, to anyone that might read this that I worked with (both staff and volunteers and board members) for the great times we had together. I enjoyed working with you all for the last 7.5 years and I left with a heavy heart, not having the chance to say a proper goodbye. My amazing volunteer team gave me the energy to come to work each day, leaving me with fun stories to tell and a big smile on my face daily. The generosity these volunteers showed as active members in their community always warmed my heart. I learned so much from everyone, built friendships and will forever remember the time spent with you all. I am grateful for the opportunities I was given and the chance to work with a great staff team and amazing group of volunteers and have the chance to learn so much about the arts. I wish you all the best and hope I run into you in the future.

Are any of us really ready for this?



No one can prepare you for the difficult and/or awkward questions that your children may have about your MS.  I have had the MS diagnosis before I had children so they have grown up with this and not known me any other way but many of you have been diagnosed after and both scenarios have their own sets of challenges. I was still afraid for this day to come and dreaded the tough questions but it already has already happened in my household.

My children have asked

  • “Mommy will you die?”
  • “Mommy will you always have MS?”
  • “How did you get MS Mommy?”
My best advice is to be honest but to keep the facts age appropriate when you are talking to your children.  My children are young so I didn’t want to scare them. I was worried about telling them too much or not saying enough. I just trusted my gut instinct when doing this because no one knows my children better than me right? I did some researching on the internet for some helpful advice so I was prepared beforehand but as best prepared as you try when it comes to children and asking questions expect the unexpected. Are any of us really ready for this?
I just typed this topic into the search engine and pages of websites came up but here are a few example
Top three traps to avoid I would suggest are
  1. Avoid using medical terms they will have no clue what they are and it just confuses them
  2. That MS is NOT contagious and they can not get it by kissing or hugging you
  3. There are researchers all over the world that are searching for a cure everyday
Whenever I have had to explain anything important to my children I try to end whatever conversation we are having with a positive one so that they are not scared or worried when we are done talking. I reassure them that we take our lives one day at a time and enjoy it as best we can. We don’t waste our time or energy worrying about “what ifs” in the future. I sympathize with you if you are going through this right now because when it comes to our babies we want to shelter them from anything scary.
Do those of you who have been in this situation before have any advice for our Moms with MS family? Please feel free to make comments under my blog I would really like to know how others have handled this.

I’m Dr. Picone – Raising Awareness for MS !

My name is Dr. Picone; a 20+ year Neurologist treating patients with MS.  I currently practice at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey.

The reason I am reaching out today is to humbly ask for your help in promoting our Indiegogo campaign launched on Sept 9th.  I have been investing a lot of time in money over the last 8 months getting ready for this moment.  The project is MS Connect.

Our Mission Statement:
MS Connect is a mobile app striving to create an organized and centralized platform for coordinating MS care. We are creating an app specifically designed to improve the quality of care for patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The MS Connect App will provide patients with an easy way to stay connected with their health information, while providing physicians with a multifaceted view of a patient’s disease progression.  This mobile app is not the cure but it is a step in the right direction.  It will greatly increase my ability to treat people with MS.
Our slogan:  Making Physicians better Physicians and Patients better Patients.
Here is one of the videos:

We are looking for people to really get behind this campaign to help get the word out to their family, friends, social media accounts, newsletter, etc!
I’m really banking on the strength of the MS Community to rally behind me and spread the word!  I have about 50 people, organizations, and social influencers on board to help so far.  Will you join me?!

With Respect,
Dr. Picone

Mary Ann Picone MD

Board Certified Neurologist

Member of New York Consortium of MS Centers

Board Member MS Hope

Facebook Page


The Guilt Mines


I haven’t slept well since my first child was born.  I’m sure this is very similar to other mothers with young children. You know what that is like you sleep with one eye open and are ready to console if one is crying from a scary nightmare or if you hear a little foot hit the floor if one is sleepwalking.  Our inner strength as mothers is truly amazing even at our tiredness of days we still find the strength to put their needs first even when it’s our darkest hour.

It’s hard to explain the chronic fatigue we battle to others who do not experience it. My best way to try to explain how it is for me sometimes personally is to imagine yourself running up a steep hill in extremely hot weather with rubber boots on with cement filled in them. It doesn’t matter how much rest you get you still wake up and feel like you just ran a marathon. I can honestly say though my fatigue has gotten a little better since I was treated for my first venoplasty for CCSVI 5 years ago.  I still have it but I have more good days than bad now with it.

So as a mom with physical limitations it’s a mine field you try everyday not to step on the “guilt mines”.  You could feel guilty for pretty much everything.  The worst for me is I have struggles everyday with physical jobs or chores that need done so I ask my children for help.  I know it doesn’t hurt to have them help me but at times they just want to be playing and be little kids and that makes me feel guilty for having to ask more than a mom who doesn’t battle with these issues. My oldest son always says to me if he sees me struggling with something “Don’t worry mom I can help you”  so I guess to raise children who will be more aware and empathetic of others with disabilities are life skills that are so invaluable ~ but I still feel guilty.  My children have never known me any other way because I was diagnosed long before they were born.

Here is a quote from an amazing lady I follow on Facebook Caylee Shea. She is a Model and activist for the Chronically ill.

“One of those days when I just need to cry. I need to be angry, I need to be frustrated! I am just so tired of being so tired. Living with chronic illness is not easy. I don’t just wake up and jump out of bed with a smile. No. I literally plan every move and only get a limited few. Every move comes with a price. Every move causes a symptom.

Being alive we have two choices- make the best of what we have or simply don’t. I choose to make the best of it. But this is still a battle for me every single day.

But that does not mean I am not going to need to rest my weary head and cry once in awhile. The way to stay positive is to allow ourselves to cry when we need to.

And today ~  I just need to cry. “

“I try to live in the moment and not beat myself up too much”

So please try to be kind to yourself and if you are having a bad day just know that it’s ok to cry and be frustrated because this MS monster steals a lot from us. We are only human to grieve the way we used to be before diagnosis.

I want to hear from you as a mother with MS. What tips can you share that make your life a bit easier? Please comment on my blog below so we can all know we are not in this alone.

Until my next blog take care:)

Michelle Walsh


Let the Academic Adventure Begin!

My books!

Tomorrow I start my Masters degree, which has been something on my ‘to-do’ list for quite some time. About 5 years ago I started to think about career advancement. I h always had a dream since I was young that I would continue my education and complete a Masters degree. Not many in my family have this level of education and I always thought it would be such an amazing thing to achieve. I remember the day I walked across the stage to get my diploma at the University of Victoria and the proud feeling I had, and seeing my mother’s face and how proud she also was of me. I would give anything to relive that moment. So tomorrow I start my 2 years journey towards my Masters in Communications at Royal Roads University. Most of my education will be online, and I will have to complete two, three week residencies on campus in Victoria, which is a ferry ride away from where I live now, meaning leaving my son for the first time since he was born for more than one night!

When I was first diagnosed with MS I, like many, started to have fear about doing things, something I never really had before. Having had optic neuritis I became very fearful of loosing my vision, I am a creative person and I can’t imagine not being able to use my eyes. I also then started to read about MS, go to workshops put on by the MS society and even attended a support group there a few times, and as I attended these things the fear I felt around MS would always surface. I would meet lovely people, but I would also see how the disease had progressed in many, and would see myself in them, knowing that I too could follow in similar paths. I would have fear over how this illness could take over my body and manifest in disabilities that would get in the way of living my life the way I wanted to. I worked hard to have a positive outlook on it all, acknowledging the fear all while not allowing it to control me. I would go to yoga often, take time to eat healthy and ensure that I was taking time for myself (Now as a mother I find those things have all fallen by the way side, I am sure other moms, MS or not can relate.) In 2011 I had a huge relapse and that fear came back and ran me over like a train, and over and over again. I loss the usage of my legs, was wheel chair bound and had to take time to practice what it meant to walk again. The cognitive disfunction I had was awful, I could barely finish a sentence and my brain was in such a heavy fog that I could not process much at all. The fear came back with that relapse and it made things feel so much more real as to how this awful illness can really take over your mind and body and leave you feeling helpless.

After a few years of humming and hawing about returning to school and working through my fears about completing a Masters and then and putting it off after being accepted two years ago, tomorrow is the day I finally begin! I put it off for two reasons no MS related. 1. I was trying to get pregnant for three years and it was taking a toll on me mentally and I needed to give myself space. 2. I finally gave birth to my son, which was was joyous as well as and it was hard on my body and so I needed time to heal before I could embark on this education adventure. I wanted to make sure once I started I would do it well!

The fear I had experienced is still there, it comes and goes and sometimes it stays a bit longer than I would like. Before becoming a mother I had fears about doing my masters successfully as a person living with MS. I worried about being able to handle the stress of it while working and I worried about being able to handle the cognitive side of performing at a higher academic level and I worried how I would balance it all. It has been years since I have been in an academic setting and at that time functioned cognitively much sharper than I do now. Now as a mother I have those same fears, but with the addition of motherhood on top of them all. I have found the introduction to motherhood hard, both mentally and physically. I am grateful for the supports in my life that have made it easier (thanks Tia Sonia!) but as I am sure many moms with MS know, there are days I would rather curl up in bed as the pain is in tolerable, or I just feel so weak, but I must get up and put on a semi-happy face to be there for my little man.

I often wonder how will I be: a mother, a student, a wife, a friend and a business owner all at the same time? To be honest, I have no idea! What I do know is I can’t be fearful of what could be around the corner with my health and just try and pace myself. To be a good mothers I need to also follow my dreams and remain true to what my needs are as well. Living with MS is unpredictable and there is a chance I could get ‘sick’ during my studies, but that chance is always there, studying or not.

I have my school supplies, my books and today am doing my orientation to online learning. Everything feels ready to go, but I still have that little ball of fear at the pit of my stomach. I am also filled with excitement and pride that I finally about to start my Masters!
I know there will be times I will fall and need to get back up.I know that I won’t get to be as social as I like, may not see friends as often as I like (motherhood has already changed that a bit) not remember birthdays and not be able to attend as many fun events as I would like. I know it isn’t going to be easy, but I know I can’t wait to walk across that stage and get my diploma and have my son waiting there to give me a big hug! That is what is driving me and gets me excited about starting this academic adventure! But let’s be honest here: I am nervous as all hell about it :)

I would love to hear from others that have taken on such full plates as a mom living with MS and some of the ways you helped yourself and your family through busy times like this.

24 Years Ago, Bombshell was Dropped..

M_WalshHello my name is Michelle Walsh and I was diagnosed with MS 24 years ago. It all began when I was 18 years old, in my first semester of College, living an hour away from home when I started to notice something was not right with my body. I got very electric pins/needles in my arms and legs that were so painful it felt like they were plugged into the light socket. I went through 4 different emergency room visits only to be told by the doctors “it must be stress and go rest you will feel better”. As the weeks went on I didn’t feel better. Things got worse with an over whelming fatigue I could barely get out of bed in the mornings no matter how long I slept so I called my parents to say I know there’s something else going on with me. My mom is a nurse and she knew there was something not right either. I drove home to see my family doctor who then referred me to a Neurologist who specialized in MS. The Neurologist did several neurological physical tests and after he said “I am 90% sure you have Multiple Sclerosis” Over the next few months I had a spinal tap and MRI that confirmed this. I have never forgotten this day the bombshell was dropped.

I was initially very mad and sad. I thought what kind of life will I have now? Will I ever find anyone who will want to marry me because of this diagnosis? So many emotions went through my head for the first while sad, anger, disbelief, etc. I just couldn’t understand how I could run long distances before and be so active months ago to now being so tired that I can barely get out of bed. I was diagnosed with Relapsing-remitting MS so when I learned to pace myself, not over do it I could manage this MS monster.

I competed for Rodeo Queen Contests and won two titles to then advance to compete for Miss Rodeo Canada. Another one of my dreams was to be a Flight Attendant and I went on to do this too. I flew all over the world and saw so many amazing places and worked with many amazing colleagues. I also in this time of my life met the man of my dreams. Mutual friends of ours set us up and we hit it off instantly and have never looked back. We have been together for 13 years now, married for 10 and have three beautiful, healthy children. We live on a mixed farming operation in southwest Saskatchewan.

So after being diagnosed for over 24 years I have learnt a lot of things that I want to share with others who have MS

  1. To take this MS monster one day at a time. Be kind to yourself and stop putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. If it’s the kind of day where you are fatigued then prioritize what really needs to get done to get through the day and what can wait for another day.
  2. Accept the kindness and help of others if they are offering it. Trust me this is still a hard one for me to deal with because we want to try to be independent as long as we can. But if someone is offering to help you out when you are not feeling well this is out of kindness and concern for us and you should take it because you are no less of a person for accepting their help. You are just being smart in conserving your energy and realizing that others care and want to help.
  3. We lose a lot of dignity with this disease be it with our bladder, bowels, vision loss etc and if you set your pride aside and use the devices that are available to make your quality of life a little easier this will help your stress levels. Once I got past my pride and realized I needed the cane/walker/scooter to get around with it made my life so much easier with less falls.
  4. Try to talk to someone you trust be in a close friend, relative, your psychologist because keeping your emotions in will not do you any favours but it physically flares up your MS. Also doing whatever type of activities to help manage your stress such as yoga, meditation, massage therapy, listening to music you like whatever works for you helps to keep your stress levels down. This is so very crucial in regards to managing our illness. When I worry or get stressed too much this can bring on a relapse in a heartbeat for me.

I am so very honoured to be Blogging for Moms with MS now and hope I can connect with other MSkuteer moms and dads out there so we all feel connected and not alone. Living with MS as a Mom has its challenges for sure but it can be done.

Please connect with me on Twitter @exflygal

Until my next blog take care,

Michelle Walsh
Saskatchewan, Canada
Board Member for Canadian Neurovascular Health Society