Dr. Carolyn Roberts is a long-time Brentwood resident who counsels those with life-threatening and degenerative diseases. She has a PhD and an office on San Vicente. She is a leader in the MS field, working on therapies now gaining national attention. The Brentwood News recently caught up with Dr. Roberts.
Q: When did you first learn you had MS? How did you react?
A: When I was 25, I heard â€œYou have multiple sclerosis; prepare to be in a wheelchair by the time you are 45.â€ I felt like I had been picked up by a tornado like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, plucked from the land of the well and deposited in the land of the ill. I wondered if I would be able to continue to work and support myself, if anyone would want to marry me, if I could have children. I was shocked and scared — I really didn’t know what multiple sclerosis was, and I wondered how, exactly, does one prepare to be in a wheel chair?
Q: What is MS, exactly? What happens to somebody who has it? How are you faring now?
A: Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.
I often wish that someone could have come from my future with a video of my life today. I’m past 45, and I’m far from being in a wheelchair! After my diagnosis, I earned a doctorate, established a private psychotherapy practice, married a wonderful man who saw me as more than my illness, and found spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Ironically, my neurologist is in the process of changing my diagnosis. I remain committed to serving those with MS because of my experience living the diagnosis for decades.
Q: You are very involved in the local MS community. Tell us what you’re up to.
A: For over ten years, I have helped develop and deliver the spirituality component of Living Well, an integrative mind-body-spirit program created for people newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center, a joint venture of UCLA Department of Neurology and the National MS Society. This 12-week program gives people information on medical management, nutrition, exercise, vocational issues, emotional well-being, and spirituality. Originally an on-site program at UCLA, it is now offered in some form at over 26 locations in California, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York.
Q: Has the program worked, do you think?
A: Our research shows that the program has been quite effective in giving people an enhanced sense of coping with the disease. Also, I’ve witnessed how individuals come into the program in shock and despair and leave feeling less frightened and more empowered to cope with the disease. I’m extremely proud of and moved by these results.
Q: What’s the outlook from here? Any cures on the horizon?
A: There is a great deal of hope that science is getting closer to a cure. I find the research that’s being done on restoring functioning to be exciting and hopeful as well. If someone would like to learn more about the research being done, they can access information through the website of the National MS Society (NMSS),
Q: What else should our readers know? If someone wants to know more, is there a site they should look up?
A: While the NMSS is dedicated to finding a cure, the thing I love about the organization is that it is just as committed to providing services to help people cope with the disease. The combination offers hope that individuals with MS can have a full and meaningful life.