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World Medical Innovation Forum Raises Awareness About MS

BOSTON (CBS) - The World Medical Innovation Forum was held over the past three days at the Westin Copley Place in Boston, attracting more than 1,000 attendees and featuring world-renowned experts on brain and nerve disorders. Dr. Mallika Marshall had the honor of moderating a panel on multiple sclerosis Wednesday morning and learned about all of the remarkable advances in treating this disorder that attacks nerves in the brain, the eyes, and the spinal cord and affects more women than men.

Nicole Whitmore, 35, of Beverly, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 11 years ago when she developed numbness in her left arm. "There was a scar on my spinal cord," she explains. "That was what they saw first so they sent me for an MRI of my brain and to a neurologist. And that was a really tough week."

Today, Nicole struggles with her vision and strength in her legs and worries her two young daughters will grow up to resent her limitations.

Nicole Whitmore
Nicole Whitmore (WBZ-TV)

"It's hard because I want them to feel like they have a normal life," says Nicole tearfully. "And I worry about how I'm going to explain to them what's the matter with me. They're so little and don't understand anyway, but when Emily says, 'Can you chase me?' and I say, 'Okay,' I pretend I'm chasing her but I can't really run." She adds, "I hope it will make them compassionate people and they won't resent me."

Dr. Howard Weiner, a leading expert on MS at Brigham and Women's Hospital, says there have been amazing advances when it comes to treatment. "I'm most excited that I can sit with an MS patient and say you can live your life," say Dr. Weiner. "You can have your children. You can do your work and things will be okay. Now it isn't true for everybody but for many people it's now true."

Nicole, who attended today's conference, is encouraged that her future and her ability to fully participate in raising her kids will get better. "When I leave something like this (conference)," she says, "I feel so uplifted that they're actually going to figure it out. I think that they're going to figure it out someday."

The panel on Multiple Sclerosis this morning discussed a variety of new therapies that are on the horizon. New drugs, a high-tech watch that can monitor patients at home, mini-MRIs to look at a patient's brain in a clinic room during a routine check-up, and possibly ways to prevent the disease in patients at risk were all mentioned.

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