KAYSVILLE – Ryan Ren knows all too well the effects of multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed four years ago and years before he was among the caregivers for his father, who also suffered from the disease.
Ren will speak at a free conference on Saturday, March 15 at the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City on from 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public, but is focused on providing information to MS patients and their caregivers.
It is being sponsored by pharmaceutical company Genzyme, a Sanofi company, based in Bridewater, N.J. The company produces Aubagio, an oral therapy used for relapsing forms of MS.
Ren will be speaking on dealing with MS in relationships, addressing issues such as developing community strategies with the patient’s loved ones, doctors and colleagues; how to foster and maintain relationships; and how to handle conversations with others about the disease.
Ren was diagnosed with MS at 33 years old. He believes he’d had ithe disease longer but was asymptomatic ,until he had an extreme attack.
“My doctor was shocked at my MRI,” Ren said. “He asked me if I was sure I’d never had any other symptoms.”
That extreme attack came one night after he had returned from a trip for work.
“I went to shut the door to the bedroom, and my body just froze like a statue,” he said. “I was able to balance while standing, but I almost fell while trying to get the attention of my wife. It was also hard to speak.”
When his wife became aware something was not right, she walked him to bed.
“I stood there 30 to 40 seconds and I knew something was really wrong with me,” Ren said. Over the next 24 hours, he had problems almost every time he stood.
Ren went to the emergency room while having an attack and told the doctors, “I think I have multiple sclerosis.” After a CAT scan and MRI, the doctors informed him he had the white spots indicative of MS all over his brian.
“For me it was shocking. I sat on my hospital bed and bawled my eyes out, “ Ren said. “I kept thinking, ‘how can I provide for my family?’”
Multiple sclerosis is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary from person to person and a patient can be asymptomatic for some time between attacks.
“It changed my whole outlook on life, Ren said. “I now enjoy life as I go and look at life as positively as I can.”
He said there are advantages to the unpredictability.
“It makes me enjoy life a little more and enjoy spending time with my loved ones.”
He’s also found himself to be more compassionate and hopeful
“Hope is a universal too we all have,” Ren said.
It helps, he said, that both his wife, Sonia and his mother are strong.
It was devastating for his mother to hear her youngest child had MS, after she had dealt with the disease for years with Ren’s father, but she’s served as a strength to Ren.
Sonja Ren recognizes the severity of her husband’s disease, Ryan Ren said, but is a positive person and helps lift Ren’s mood when he’s having a bad day.
“She has a calming effect,” he said.
MS patients must sometimes try a variety of drugs to find one that helps.
“The drugs affect every person differently,” Ren said.
Each year, He and other MS patients must undergo an MRI to see if the drug they’re on is working to stop the disease from progressing. If it isn’t another is tried.
“I’m trying to live a life that would make my father proud,” Ren said. “I’m trying to live a life that has an impact on others.”