Brian Giacchi has experienced muscle spasms off and on since age 9. When the condition ramped up in his 20s, he sought medical advice. Unfortunately, several years of doctors’ visits, testing, and frustration failed to solve the mystery. Then finally, at age 34, he got an answer: he had multiple sclerosis.
“I felt like people thought I was a hypochondriac because doctors couldn’t tell me why I felt the way I did,” says Brian, a Marlboro resident.
In November 2015, he felt a numbness in his stomach that traveled up to his chest and down to his toes. An MRI revealed lesions on his brain and spine, a classic sign of multiple sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. The condition disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
While Brian was relieved to find an answer for his numbness, his diagnosis came just a few months after he and his wife, Jenna, welcomed their first child, Lucas.
“I was worried about being able to raise my child,” Brian explains. “I very quickly prioritized what was important: being there for my son.”
Finding Compassionate Care for MS
When the first treatment center he tried didn’t meet his expectations, he learned about Caren Marks, MD, a neurologist at The Linda E. Cardinale MS Center at CentraState, and made an appointment.
“Dr. Marks listened to me and discussed my goals and concerns before determining my treatment,” says Brian, a project manager at a housewares store. “She has a great sense of humor and never discredits any symptom that I’m feeling.”
“Treating MS means slowing the progression of the disease, speeding recovery from attacks, and managing symptoms,” explains Dr. Marks. “Our goal is to ensure Brian feels as strong and symptom-free as possible.”
The Linda E. Cardinale MS Center at CentraState offers an array of comprehensive services, including:
- Coordinated care from a team of MS specialists
- Disease-modifying therapies and medications
- Patient and family education
- A 12-week MS Wellness Program to strengthen mind and body
- An advanced program of strength and balance classes, yoga, and aquatics
- Referrals to more specialized services if needed
Brian, who experiences tingling, balance issues, and blurry vision due to MS, receives an infusion of Tysabri® at the center every six weeks. An immunosuppressive drug that keeps white blood cells from entering the brain and spinal cord and causing further damage, this medication can decrease the frequency of MS flare-ups and prevent physical disabilities from worsening.
While treatment can make him tired, Brian relishes the days that he feels well by spending time with Lucas watching a hockey game or making multicolored pancakes from scratch.
For others who may have similar “phantom” ailments he says, “Don’t give up on getting answers. Be persistent, because you can’t treat what you don’t understand.”