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Living with multiple sclerosis: How one couple continues to fight it together

Wed, Nov 23rd 2016 04:35 pm
Edward gives his wife, Robin, injections three times a week.
Edward gives his wife, Robin, injections three times a week.

By Katie Apholz

You're tired and weak.

It's just one of those days where even walking up the stairs or trying to get some chores done seems like a challenge. You just want to lie in bed all day and hide from your responsibilities.

For most of you, this could be the result of a long day at work, or a late night out and about. Lucky for you, that sluggish, fatigued feeling should go away with a nice night of sleep or a few hours of relaxation.

For people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, that's not the case.

Their chronic illness creates a constant battle with exhaustion, body aches and muscle spasms. No amount of sleep will make it go away completely; this is their life.

The National MS Society defines the illness as, "An unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body."

Robin Apholz, a 46-year-old mother of four who struggles with multiple sclerosis, refuses to let the illness stop her from living a full life. She always manages to keep herself busy with many different tasks. In addition to her jobs as a full-time mom, Robin is also the co-owner of a local business, Akron's House of Spirits, and also devotes a lot of her time to a local, volunteer-run rescue group, Open Arms Rescue of WNY.

Without previous knowledge, no one would guess Robin has MS. However, even though she can keep up with tasks that even the healthiest of people may not be able to, she does have MS, and every day is a different struggle with the illness.

Obviously, when first being told she had such a life-changing illness, there were many emotional and mental hardships she felt at that moment.

"It was my 21st birthday when the doctors diagnosed me with MS," Robin recalled.

When hearing the doctor first tell her the news, she was completely shocked - especially because she wasn't quite sure what was to come with MS.

"I didn't really know much about it," she said, "I was afraid of (the) then-unknown."

Public awareness of MS is lacking, and every patient is different. For patients, this makes the very first struggle just attempting to understand what they've been told.

Fast-forward 25 years and Robin's still not certain of what each day will be like.

"Every day is different," she said. "Some days are much worse than others."

Robin does have her good days, where she feels well enough to get what needs to be done, done. On the more difficult days, though, normal everyday tasks seem nearly impossible.

"I'm always exhausted ... even the thought of walking to the next room is too much," Robin explained.

Every day she takes a multitude of medicines, such as muscle relaxers for spasticity and something for pain and numbness.

A part of Robin's daily routine has become taking these prescribed medications, which can help relieve her symptoms a little. But multiple sclerosis does not yet have a cure, and those living with it will always live with it until one is found.

MS and the daily issues that come with it impact more than just those diagnosed with the illness. Loved ones are affected, as well.

Robin's husband, Edward Apholz, has taken on the role of a caregiver for his wife.

Edward was there from the start. The couple met when they were only 17 and 19 years old - prior to Robin's diagnosis. After they learned what Robin was going to struggle with, and the symptoms that were to come, Edward willingly accepted that a new part of his life would be trying to make Robin's days go as smoothly as possible.

"I help her with daily activities as much as possible," Edward said. "When she's not feeling well, I try to keep her spirits up."

Professionally, Edward is registered nurse, so it's easier for him to care for Robin medically. He specializes in IV care and, when Robin needs to be given steroids using an IV, she's able to stay in the comfort of her home, because Edward is like her personal nurse.

"Caring for her and helping her out is the easy part," Edward said. "The real struggle for me is wishing I could take her pain away. ... It's frustrating knowing that I can't."

No one wants to see a loved one go through something like MS, but it makes it easier for Robin knowing Edward can help a little here and there.

Even with Robin struggling with MS, the two try to find time to go out and enjoy themselves. MS shouldn't stop the fun parts of life! It's important to find activities that she can handle, but also ones they'll both enjoy.

"I understand that, at the end of the day, she will need to recover. I try to plan things accordingly," Edward said.

It's important Robin knows he's there for support - and that she's not alone.

Making time for going out to dinner, or visiting with friends is still extremely important to the two.

The struggles of MS are not enough to keep them from doing things they love. Every day brings new battles for them to handle, but together they always make it work.

For more information on multiple sclerosis, or to find support for yourself or loved ones diagnosed with the illness, visit:

Katie Apholz is the daughter of Robin and Edward Apholz. She prepared this article as part of her CMS 120B communication studies class at Niagara University.

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