Meet-the-experts @ PACTRIMS 2011 deepens the understanding of MS-related issues.
Contributed By Lee Wei Fang
On Aug. 28, MS Care, a service provided by City Harvest Community Services Association for people with Multiple Sclerosis, organized a “Meet-The-Experts @ PACTRIMS session. PACTRIMS is the acronym for Pan-Asian Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, and it comprises of neurologists from the Asia Pacific region who have a strong interest in MS. It is a vital platform for MS clinicians and researchers in the region to share their experience and disseminate the best practices with regards to the condition.
The session was informative and useful, aimed at helping the beneficiaries, as well as their care-givers, increase their knowledge and understanding on MS-related issues. The Guest-of-Honor for the event was Member of Parliament and Chairman of Workers Party, Ms. Sylvia Lim. Another special guest was Namiko Chan Takahashi, a committed women’s and animal rights supporter who uses her art to raise funds for organizations that further these causes.
Dr. Ang Yong Guan, a well known consultant psychiatrist in Singapore and manager of Dr. Ang Yong Guan Psychiatry at Paragon Medical Centre, taught on a pertinent issue—Mindfulness In A Stressful World. MS is a long-term medical condition, and doctors are still in the process of working out a cure for the condition. In the midst of handling MS, a positive frame of mind is very important. Ang said, “Given the situation of inevitable stress, how do we cope? Having mindfulness is very important, and with it, you can get quality of life, despite MS.”
Stating that mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness, which involves having a negative and narrow mindset, Ang introduced the five pillars of mindfulness as the acronym—F.O.C.U.S.—which stands for:
• Focusing on the present moment
• Being Open to all possibilities
• Staying Calm and proactive
• Being Uncritical and non-judgmental
• Having a Sense of connection to our inner selves and to the outer world.
Ang quoted a real-life example of a person with MS, by the name of Alvin, who was featured on Channel News Asia in 2007. Alvin’s condition caused him to experience overwhelming stress and a sense of hopelessness. He shared, “All my dreams and goals I had for myself were completely shattered, as I’ll never know when it’s going to hit me, or which function of my body will be lost every time there’s a relapse.”
Ang pointed out, “Stress is a fact of life, but it need not be a way of life. Stress is a signal of underlying stressors, and we need to identify these stressors before we can deal properly with it.” By having mindfulness, feelings of negativity can be handled well.
Prof. John King, a senior neurologist from the Royal Melbourne Hospital spoke about the status of MS in Australia, and the multidisciplinary care provided, such as outreach programs, fundraising, patient and public education, and clinical trials.
Renowned doctors from the region, including Prof. Ching-Piao Tsai from Taiwan, Prof. T. Umapathi and Dr. Kevin Tan from Singapore, helped to field questions from the ground during a one-hour Q&A session. The questions raised reflected genuine concerns, such as whether supplements would help in recovery and management, the long term effects of taking the required medication, and practical issues such as the feasibility and safety of being employed in doing shift work. The Q&A segment was easily the most active segment of the event, as the people received professional answers to their burning questions.
At the end of the meet-the-experts session, everyone came away with a better understanding of MS and the importance of mindfulness, all of which translates to greater confidence and capacity for the journey ahead.