Ex-Salesman Uses Net to Inform, Persuade
Apathy perplexes Stuart Schlossman. The way he sees it, information about MS abounds. So why don’t more people read it — and heed it?
Schlossman is a former salesman who left his family’s industrial sewing-machine parts company in 2003 due to MS-related fatigue. (It took years to figure that out: on business trips he’d wind up in Latin American hospitals where the doctors couldn’t understand his symptoms and he couldn’t understand what they were saying.)
Since then Schlossman has dedicated himself to collecting every piece of information about MS he can. Thousands of people worldwide view his Web site, MS Views and News, and associated blog and e-newsletter. When event planners want a good crowd for an MS event in South Florida, they ask Schlossman to spread the word.
Still, with several thousand people known to be living with MS in the region, it frustrates Schlossman that only a few dozen typically show up.
“Why aren’t they attending? Some people say, well, it’s hot or it’s muggy or it’s a rainy day. There’s always an excuse.”
Even worse, in his view, are people who won’t give the disease-modifying drugs a try because they just don’t feel like it — and doctors who don’t know enough about MS to insist.
“Most people it seems really don’t see MS neurologists,” he said. “Most people are seeing — I don’t really know, maybe just their primary. Could be a veterinarian for all I know. All I know is that many, especially from rural areas, are not receiving proper information....
“I know people who say, ‘There’s only a 30% chance you won’t have relapses, so why should I take the medication?’ I know a lot of these people who are now in wheelchairs or in scooters, who 10 years ago were walking just like I am.”
Schlossman once put himself on a “medication vacation” — sort of an unscientific, one-man clinical trial. The experience deepened his belief that shunning treatment, even if there’s only a small chance it will help, is nuts.
“I was playing golf again, something I hadn’t been able to do in years. Then five or six weeks later, when I was driving home from something, the world went into a spin that wouldn’t stop, and I was lucky to be able to pull over and stop the car and pray for my life. I learned my lesson. The medication was obviously working. So now I had to wait to get it back into my system. It was from March to September ‘til I could stop using a cane again.”
Drug or no, fatigue remains an issue and Schlossman figures his days of working full-time are over. Typing hurts his hands, so he takes frequent breaks from his computer to swim, nap or walk his dogs. But his sense of determination never quits. In fact he recently requested IRS permission to turn MS Views and News into a nonprofit corporation. If that happens he can begin accepting donations to optimize his Web site and begin applying for education grants, so that MS Views and News can offer locally based education programs for people with MS and care partners.
“I love to communicate,” said Schlossman, who lives with his wife Patrice and travels as often as possible to visit relatives in North Carolina and New York.
While Schlossman obviously doesn’t like how MS has changed his body, he likes how his response to the disease has changed his outlook:
“I feel like the pearly white gates will be open for me when the time comes. It fills my day and it’s just made me a different person. You didn’t want to live with me years ago when I was obnoxious and abrasive. Now I’m obnoxious and abrasive — and a humanitarian.”