By Adrianne Gunter
My name is Adrianne Gunter, I’m 33 years old, and I have multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that attacks the central nervous system. Science doesn’t know what causes it, but scars, known as lesions, form in the brain and the spinal column. These lesions interfere with the way the body receives information from the brain and this makes everything difficult. I walk with a cane, but it’s hard to pick up my legs. My hands don’t grip the way they used to and I need help getting the lid off a jar of peanut butter. No matter how well I chew my food, I have difficulty swallowing. I have full-body tremors and I never know when they’re going to happen. I have all of these problems and more.
But the most important thing to remember is that there is no cure for multiple sclerosis.
I graduated from the University of the Arts in 2013 with a BFA in Writing for Film and Television. It was the best four years of my life — I loved every minute of it. So imagine my surprise when MS struck my senior year. Suddenly, I’m turning in my homework late. Suddenly, I’m missing class. Suddenly, I’m tired all the time. Suddenly, my muscles ache. Suddenly, I don’t understand. I thought it was stress; nevertheless, after graduation, I thought the stress was over and I could focus on getting my career together. My plan was to get an internship working with the Philadelphia film scene, save some money, and study for my GRE because I wanted a MFA in film. I was going to be a writer-director. And that’s when I lost vision in my left eye.
The neuro-ophthomologist I went to diagnosed it as optic neuritis. It heals over time, but the neuro-ophthomologist encouraged me to get an MRI because she said, and I quote, “Optic neuritis is one of the first signs of multiple sclerosis.”
My life came to a crashing halt. Instantly, I because unemployed and unemployable. The fatigue, the brain fog, and the muscle weakness were only getting worse. As a result, I have 68 thousand dollars in student loan debt. It took 878 days for me to qualify for Social Security Disability, and MS is a degenerative disease, meaning I need all the help available so I can live my best life. For two years, I applied for health insurance and was denied four times. It’s only when Tom Wolf was elected Governor of Pennsylvania and signed the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion that I was finally able to get insurance. But by then, the lesions in my brain had migrated from my mid-brain to my hindbrain, and now I have two lesions in my spinal column in an area that, if left untreated, can cause total and permanent paralysis. I already feel like a burden, I don’t want to become an invalid.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but there is treatment. Treatment doesn’t repair the damage — those lesions aren’t going anywhere — but treatment can prevent new lesions from forming. My first treatment was covered through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Without coverage, the medication would have cost thousands of dollars, but thanks to the Medicaid expansion, the most I’ve ever had to pay is three dollars. Medicaid also covers my doctor’s appointments. Medicaid covers the MRIs that track the progression of this disease. Medicaid also gives me hope that if I have a terrible reaction to medication, or a fall where I break my bones, or anything I can’t predict, it will be covered and I won’t be buried in endless medical bills.
I am voting for Governor Tom Wolf because he has put people first. I am supporting Governor Wolf’s 2018 re-election campaign because the fight for our healthcare isn’t over and we need strong leadership in order to protect what we have. I endorse Governor Wolf because he has vowed to protect Medicaid. If Medicaid goes away — if the Affordable Care Act is repealed — it’s the same as punishing people for being sick.
I didn’t ask for this disease. I don’t want it. If I could reach inside myself and rip this disease out of me, I would, but I can’t. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. I’m 33 years old. This is the rest of my life.
Thank you, Governor Tom Wolf, for looking out for the people of Pennsylvania. You have given me hope.