Adrian Wilkins - Stepping out of Stress to Fight MS
Multiple sclerosis has taught Adrian Wilkins how to manage stress. If he’s involved in a car accident – he calmly calls 911 and his insurance – he just “steps it out,” as he says and moves on.
Whether it’s moving to another state, changing jobs or even mourning the loss of a loved one, Adrian finds ways to keep stress at bay. That’s because he knows how stress can ramp up his symptoms or cause a full-blown MS episode and he is determined to minimize the odds of that happening.
Under the care of Dr. David Duncan, a neurologist with advanced training in neuro-rehabilitation and neuroradiology at the MS Center at Holy Name Medical Center, Adrian adheres to a strict exercise regimen and eats well. He takes medications as prescribed, and is thrilled with the care he is receiving.
“Dr. Duncan and Holy Name are just top of the line,” Adrian said. “The nurses and staff members take the time to talk to you and not just about MS. They want to know about you as a person, your family and your career. The way the whole process is put together – it just blows me away.”
Adrian, 42, wasn’t always a proponent of the medical field.
In 2004, he was diagnosed with MS after experiencing nausea and tingling in his limbs, symptoms that appeared once while he was in college six years earlier but never returned. This time, he was walking down a street in Las Vegas and the symptoms were so severe he had to go to a hospital emergency department.
For the next two years, his malaise became a regular part of his life. In addition to the nausea, his arms shook violently from tremors, his balance was so compromised that he couldn’t stand up for longer than 10 seconds without falling over, and he suffered from blurry vision.
“These episodes would last for seven days and on the seventh day, they would all just go away,” Adrian said. “I had this every couple of months.”
While he hated having the disease, what sent Adrian into a tailspin was having to give himself injections. He became severely depressed, crying as he would insert the needle. He couldn’t imagine a lifetime of this and started realizing how much stress he was experiencing.
Living in California at the time, he went against medical advice and stopped taking his medications. But he started eating right, exercising and learning how to remain calm through adversity. And his severe episodes stopped.
As his life took some sharp turns, he managed to handle the upheavals calmly, still managing his stress well. He moved to Michigan to help his mom when she became ill and later relocated to New Jersey, where he was awarded an academic fellowship that enabled him to earn a master’s degree at The College of New Jersey and continue his career in technology education.
Unfortunately, for the first time in many years, he started developing symptoms again from his MS. He went to a large New Jersey hospital where he was given a treatment that produced black spots on his arms and face and made him so nauseated he dropped 16 pounds.
While looking for neurologists that specialize in MS, Adrian found Dr. Duncan. His experience with both the hospital and Dr. Duncan has been unparalleled, he said.
“I love him to death,” Adrian said. “I had a very smart neurologist in California but Dr. Duncan is brilliant. He said it was not ideal for me to have stopped treatment for 10 years but he would work with me to find a treatment with minimal side-effects.”
Adrian has been on Tysabri, with minor side-effects, for 18 months. In July 2016, he learned the disease was in a form of remission.
“When Dr. Duncan told me, I just started bawling in his office,” Adrian said. “I’m so grateful that I have him as my doctor.”
Adrian has continued his exercise regimen and he still tries to eat the right foods, giving him some unexpected results.
“I’m still really good at keeping my stress down and I started getting attention for being in good shape,” he said with a laugh. “I figure I need to keep this going.”