Exclusive Content

No New Disease Progression

By Matt Cavallo

I recently had my semi-annual appointment with my neurologist. At this point, I have two appointments with my neurologist a year to check in and re-authorize my MS treatment. Prior to my appointment, I need to do two things: get blood work and a MRI of my brain with contrast. After all of these years, I have the routine down. That is, of course, unless I have a flare-up.  

My favorite part of my semi-annual visits is when my neurologist reviews my MRI findings and (hopefully) tells me there is no new disease progression. So, why is this my favorite moment of the appointment?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease for which there is no cure. I have relapsing remitting MS, which means I may have a relapse and go into a period of remission. When I was first diagnosed with MS, I was on a front-line treatment that didn’t work for me and, as it turns out, I was allergic to that treatment. Still, when I was diagnosed in 2005, there weren’t many treatment options available. 

By the time I learned I had an allergy to my MS treatment, it was at the end of 2006. My allergy was to interferons, so there were two options at the time. A tried, tested, and true injection or an IV therapy that showed promise, but also had some risk. 

At that point, the disease activity on my MRI shone bright like holiday lights. Every time I got an MRI, there was a new and active lesion. During the course of eighteen months, I suffered through three major MS relapses. In my mind, the suffering had been enough, so I decided to take the risk and went with the newer therapy. All of a sudden, life was calm.

I started a period of no relapses. Part of the protocol for taking my new therapy was that I had to have an MRI every six months. To start 2007, my MRI showed new and active lesions. Six months later my MRI revealed no new disease progression. Each subsequent MRI showed no new disease progression. This would go on for years.

So, for me, that became my favorite part of my appointment. The part where my neurologist reviewed my MRI report and told me there was no new disease progression. This was so important to me because it meant my MS treatment routine is working. For me, the measure of a treatment’s efficacy is the time I have in-between relapses. On some treatments, I was having relapses every six months. So far, on my new treatment, I haven’t had a relapse in almost six years. 

As a person who has had MS for a long time, I can tell you MS is unpredictable. Because MS is also often an invisible illness, the only way to bring visibility is through these MRI studies. They help paint the picture of MS activity. So, when my neurologist tells me I have no new disease progression, I feel like I am winning the fight against MS. For your next MRI, I hope you hear those magical words too.