The MS Foundation of the Cayman Islands recently held their third annual fundraiser, Pretty on the Outside, a stunning gala which shined a light on multiple sclerosis.
MS is a disease of the brain and spinal cord in which the immune system attacks the protective covers of nerve cells, or myelin, resulting in communication problems within the nervous system. This produces a range of physical and sometimes cognitive symptoms which vary between individuals. The cause of MS is still not fully understood by scientists, and currently no cure exists.
The theme for this year’s fundraiser, held at The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, was MS is Invisible, designed to highlight how MS is often invisible to outsiders despite the severity of the symptoms it can produce. This year’s keynote speaker was Ardra Shephard, whose award-winning blog Tripping on Air offers a humorous and conversational take on her struggles with MS.
Ardra discussed the varying degrees of MS and the tendency of media depictions, including drug ads, to focus only on the invisible symptoms of the disease while ignoring those that are more disabling.
The fundraiser also showcased a short film, Invisible, which featured Caymanians diagnosed with MS, to help raise awareness of the disease locally.
The MS Foundation was established in October 2016 by Alyssa Christian, just a year after she was diagnosed with the disease.
“After being diagnosed with MS myself, I realised the large community of people in Cayman with MS and the lack of support there was,” Alyssa said.
She added: “The purpose of the MS Foundation is to provide financial and emotional support to MS patients and their families, as well as provide awareness and education to the community.”
According to the U.K. charity the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, about 2,500,000 people in the world have MS, with prevalence varying by region. However, few resources for MS sufferers in the Cayman Islands existed until the establishment of the foundation.
Commenting on some of the MS Foundation’s highlights so far Alyssa said: “Our annual fundraiser that takes place every March, during MS awareness month. Also, our partnership with Health City and the presence of Dr. Romnesh de Souza. Before Health City, Cayman did not have a permanent neurologist on island, meaning all patients sought overseas care.”
To find out more follow the MS Foundation’s Facebook page.
Photos by Janet Jarchow
MS Foundation 4: Keynote speaker Ardra Shepherd and Alyssa Christian chat about MS at the gala event
Alyssa Christian: Pink Duck Publishing writer Ian Swaby with Alyssa Christian, found of the MS Foundation
MS Foundation 5/6: Guests enjoyed a fun-filled photobooth
Ardra Shepherd: Keynote speaker Ardra Shepherd with Pink Duck Publishing’s writer Ian Swaby