Read Kayla’s personal story of successfully working with MS for 11 years.
Written by Emma Byskov
Multiple Sclerosis affects an estimated 90,000 Canadians, making the country one of the highest in the world for MS rates, according to MS Society Canada. Canadians are 7.5 x more likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis than the global average based on findings from the latest MS International Federation research. Kayla Holloway intimately understands the impact of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on daily life, having lived with the disease for 17 years. With MS Awareness Month taking place in March, Kayla hopes to increase awareness about this complex and dynamic disability.
Although 90-96% of individuals with MS are employed at the time of diagnosis, the disease can significantly impact their ability to stay employed. As someone who has successfully maintained employment for 11 years, Kayla stresses the importance of flexibility, empathy, and compassion from her employer. “If I wasn’t working from home, I wouldn’t be working,” she said. She highlights her employer providing her time off for appointments, where she can either make up the time or not, but the true importance is on whether her tasks are complete not the specifics of her timesheet.
Despite the prevalence of MS, many people, like Kayla are still met with the dismissive phrase “you don’t look sick” when disclosing their condition. Kayla emphasizes that MS is a complex and evolving disease that can ebb and flow throughout one’s lifetime. Kayla shares that MS can cause confusion for both those who have the disease and those around them, as symptoms can vary from day to day, ranging from using a mobility device to running a 5km run. Kayla goes on to explain that life conditions such as pregnancy and breastfeeding have been linked to MS flare-ups, which is particularly significant given that women are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men, according to the American National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
When asked what she wished people knew about MS, Kayla explained that the fatigue associated with MS is not the same as feeling tired from a lack of sleep. “Every single thing that they are doing, every movement that they are taking feels like 1,000 movements,” Kayla said. She also noted how this difference in fatigue and ability day to day can lead to internal guilt for individuals with MS when they themselves do not fully understand their experiences and their fluctuating capabilities.
Although there is currently no known cure for MS and each case is unique, there are treatments and management strategies available to improve the quality of life for individuals with the condition. Kayla explains that a real impact can be made when employers are truly open to listening to what people with chronic disabilities need. In The Work Wellness Institute webinar titled “Multiple Sclerosis and Work: Individual Factors Impacting Employment Status,” Dr. Lauren Strober discusses the impact of MS on employment. Having an MS diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean exiting the workforce as people with MS, given the appropriate accommodations have the potential to remain working for several years, and doing so can be greatly beneficial for them.
To learn more about the latest research on MS and employment, and what you can do to accommodate MS in the Workplace watch the webinar ‘MS & Employment: The Importance of Individual Factors’.