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My Art Before and After My MS Diagnosis

I remember a time when my job was making and teaching art. Teaching is my passion; before my MS diagnosis, I was working on making things look more realistic on paper. I loved the technical aspect of drawing from life and recreating the colors exactly. It was like a puzzle I was obsessed with solving. I did also dabble in abstract art, but, at the time, I didn’t have the highest regard for this type of art.

When I was diagnosed with MS, things became really heavy, really quickly. I suddenly could not see the colors on my paintings correctly. The dizziness and the fatigue quite literally stopped me in my tracks; it was so difficult to even make the “journey” to my studio outside the house. I remember looking at a blank canvas and immediately being able to relate to its nothingness. That empty, bright white blankness would stare right back at me. My head just spun with absolutely zero thoughts. Cog fog wore down my thinking capabilities like a pencil that was badly in need of sharpening.

Eventually I’d had enough. It was too much to just stare at all of my tools and feel completely useless, with all the wasted paper and materials just sitting in boxes. I would sit in my studio looking around for hours at a time.

One day I reached for the nearest, easy-to-grasp thing — watercolor pencils. I scribbled. I didn’t know what else to do. I felt frustration, and it needed to go away. The scribbling seemed to help. It was so good to feel the pencil graze against the paper. I added water and scribbled some more with the paintbrush. The colors seemed to melt together. The more I leaned into a more abstracted process of relieving control, the more comfortable I felt in my own shoes.

Eventually I came to understand that the difference between pre-MS and post-MS was my outlook about a project. The more I relinquished control, the easier it became to forget about all the issues I had. It was like meditation, in a way. I needed to let my hand do what it wanted and “go with the flow” in order to reach a state of relaxation. I had to tell myself that every amount of effort that I made was good for my well-being and good for my brain.

Somewhere, I had read that repetition and playfulness can be important factors in building up neural pathways. Art was relieving stress and maybe even helping my brain. This idea was so very comforting to me. So many self-help articles and books say to balance your life and do what you love. That’s what my life lacked in so many ways before my MS diagnosis. It’s still an ongoing process, but at least I have learned to look this disease straight in the eye and tell it not to bother me today. It doesn’t always listen, but we have come to a compromise.


See more of Hannah's stories

What is OCREVUS?

OCREVUS is a prescription medicine used to treat:

  • Relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), to include clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting disease, and active secondary progressive disease, in adults
  • Primary progressive MS, in adults.

It is not known if OCREVUS is safe and effective in children.

Who should not receive OCREVUS?

Do not receive OCREVUS if you have an active hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

Do not receive OCREVUS if you have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to OCREVUS. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had an allergic reaction to OCREVUS or any of its ingredients in the past.

What is the most important information I should know about OCREVUS?

OCREVUS can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Infusion reactions: Infusion reactions are a common side effect of OCREVUS, which can be serious and may require you to be hospitalized. You will be monitored during your infusion and for at least 1 hour after each infusion of OCREVUS for signs and symptoms of an infusion reaction. Tell your healthcare provider or nurse if you get any of these symptoms:
    • itchy skin
    • rash
    • hives
    • tiredness
    • coughing or wheezing
    • trouble breathing
    • throat irritation or pain
    • feeling faint
    • fever
    • redness on your face (flushing)
    • nausea
    • headache
    • swelling of the throat
    • dizziness
    • shortness of breath
    • fatigue
    • fast heart beat

These infusion reactions can happen for up to 24 hours after your infusion. It is important that you call your healthcare provider right away if you get any of the signs or symptoms listed above after each infusion. If you get infusion reactions, your healthcare provider may need to stop or slow down the rate of your infusion.

  • Infection:
    • OCREVUS increases your risk of getting upper respiratory tract infections, lower respiratory tract infections, skin infections, and herpes infections. Infections are a common side effect, which can be serious. Tell your healthcare provider if you have an infection or have any of the following signs of infection including fever, chills, or a cough that does not go away. Signs of herpes include cold sores, shingles, genital sores, skin rash, pain, and itching. Signs of more serious herpes infection include: changes in vision, eye redness or eye pain, severe or persistent headache, stiff neck, and confusion. Signs of infection can happen during treatment or after you have received your last dose of OCREVUS. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have an infection. Your healthcare provider should delay your treatment with OCREVUS until your infection is gone.
    • Hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation: Before starting treatment with OCREVUS, your healthcare provider will do blood tests to check for hepatitis B viral infection. If you have ever had hepatitis B virus infection, the hepatitis B virus may become active again during or after treatment with OCREVUS. Hepatitis B virus becoming active again (called reactivation) may cause serious liver problems including liver failure or death. Your healthcare provider will monitor you if you are at risk for hepatitis B virus reactivation during treatment and after you stop receiving OCREVUS.
    • Weakened immune system: OCREVUS taken before or after other medicines that weaken the immune system could increase your risk of getting infections.
  • Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): PML is a rare brain infection that usually leads to death or severe disability, and has been reported with OCREVUS. Symptoms of PML get worse over days to weeks. It is important that you call your healthcare provider right away if you have any new or worsening neurologic signs or symptoms that have lasted several days, including problems with:
    • thinking        
    • eyesight
    • strength
    • balance
    • weakness on 1 side of your body
    • using your arms or legs
  • Decreased immunoglobulins: OCREVUS may cause a decrease in some types of immunoglobulins. Your healthcare provider will do blood tests to check your blood immunoglobulin levels.

Before receiving OCREVUS, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have ever taken, take, or plan to take medicines that affect your immune system, or other treatments for MS.
  • have ever had hepatitis B or are a carrier of the hepatitis B virus.
  • have a history of inflammatory bowel disease or colitis.
  • have had a recent vaccination or are scheduled to receive any vaccinations. 
    • You should receive any required ‘live’ or ‘live-attenuated’ vaccines at least 4 weeks before you start treatment with OCREVUS. You should not receive ‘live’ or ‘live attenuated’ vaccines while you are being treated with OCREVUS and until your healthcare provider tells you that your immune system is no longer weakened.
    • When possible, you should receive any ‘non-live’ vaccines at least 2 weeks before you start treatment with OCREVUS. If you would like to receive any non-live (inactivated) vaccines, including the seasonal flu vaccine, while you are being treated with OCREVUS, talk to your healthcare provider.
    • If you have a baby and you received OCREVUS during your pregnancy, it is important to tell your baby’s healthcare provider about receiving OCREVUS so they can decide when your baby should be vaccinated.
  • are pregnant, think that you might be pregnant, or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if OCREVUS will harm your unborn baby. You should use birth control (contraception) during treatment with OCREVUS and for 6 months after your last infusion of OCREVUS. Talk with your healthcare provider about what birth control method is right for you during this time.
    • Pregnancy Registry. There is a pregnancy registry for women who take OCREVUS during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while receiving OCREVUS, tell your healthcare provider right away. Talk to your healthcare provider about registering with the OCREVUS Pregnancy Registry. The purpose of this registry is to collect information about your health and your baby’s health. Your healthcare provider can enroll you in this registry by calling 1-833-872-4370 or visiting www.ocrevuspregnancyregistry.com.
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if OCREVUS passes into your breast milk. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby if you take OCREVUS.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

What are the possible side effects of OCREVUS?

OCREVUS may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Risk of cancers (malignancies) including breast cancer. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about standard screening guidelines for breast cancer.
  • Inflammation of the colon, or colitis: Tell your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms of colitis, such as:
    • Diarrhea (loose stools) or more frequent bowel movements than usual
    • Stools that are black, tarry, sticky or have blood or mucus
    • Severe stomach-area (abdomen) pain or tenderness

These are not all the possible side effects of OCREVUS.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. You may also report side effects to Genentech at (888) 835-2555.

For more information, go to www.OCREVUS.com or call 1-844-627-3887.

Please see additional Important Safety Information throughout and click here for full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide.

    • OCREVUS Prescribing Information. Genentech, Inc. 2016.

      OCREVUS Prescribing Information. Genentech, Inc. 2016.