On August 23 the Swedish Multiple Sclerosis Center hosted a summer barbeque in honor of the Young Adults with MS Support Group. With nearly 140 patients, family members, friends, and MS Center staff in attendance, the luncheon occupied the clinic’s lounge, wellness studio, and exterior terrace. Speeches were given by Dr. James Bowen, Medical Director and Neurologist at the MS Center as well as members of the Young Adults with MS Support Group. Patients and visitors had the opportunity to socialize and connect with others in the MS community while enjoying appetizers, burgers, hot dogs, and dessert.
Having grown from five individuals to over 20, the support group, led by Janice Huertas, MS Center Medical Assistant, is held every 3rd Thursday of the month, 6:30-8:30 PM at the Swedish MS Center. The support group welcomes those diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20-45 and any supporting family or friends. Members dine together at local restaurants, listen to guest speakers, and enjoy games and activities at the MS Center. Whether the sessions are taking your mind off of the hardships of the disease or allowing everyone to openly discuss the frustrations they face, an encouraging and positive environment is cultivated for members to chat about family planning, school, changing careers, and more.
“There are months where we talk about serious topics, but we always keep the social aspect a priority,” said group facilitator, Janice. Members have been quoted saying they feel a little richer and more fulfilled when leaving the class. “It is always well worth the drive,” said one member who commutes all the way from Bremerton. The idea of a Young Adults Support group first originated after many patients asked for a group that focused on their specific needs. Janice quickly starting organizing, and the group has since flourished. Growing every month, the MS Center welcomes all patients, family members, and friends with MS or those touched by the disease in some way.
Young Adults with MS Support Group Soul Collages
Every month, Janice has diligently planned an activity or meeting for the group. Recently, members arrived to a prearranged activity called Soul Collage. Perplexed by the activity and leery of the idea, students were slightly reluctant to participate. With stacks of magazines, scissors, glue, tape, and markers all around them, members sat before a blank poster board. Instructed to cut-out images to describe themselves and how MS made them feel, or how they felt when they were diagnosed, or what gets them through the day, the cutting and pasting got underway slowly. With a designated hour to complete their collage before sharing with the group, the class finally settled into the activity with deep concentration. “The room suddenly became quiet and focused,” said facilitator, Janice. When the hour was up, incredibly moving collages were shared. Some brought the room to tears with the explanation of their diagnosis and everyday emotions and hardships. Members quickly changed their mind about soul collaging. “It was one of the best activities we have done,” said one of the group members who also commented on the fact that he was not someone who would normally attend a support group, but now finds himself encouraging others to participate. “I think like all things community, everyone gets more the more they put into it. I really appreciate hearing other people’s stories and experiences with MS; they go a long way to helping me feel not as alone,” said another member.
Multiple donations made this event possible--thank you to those who graciously contributed to this occasion. A very special thank you goes to our guest speakers, Eric for barbequing, Chris for providing music, and Will and Catlynn for transportation and set-up. Above all, we would like to thank Janice Huertas for her continuous passion and support for this group and for arranging such a wonderful event.
If you are interested in attending a Young Adults with MS Support Group session, please contact Janice at 206-220-3200.