East Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - It's a disease that strikes young adults, usually in their 30's. About 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis
, and many of them are grouped in Central New York. Among those suffering is NewsChannel 9's Chief Meteorologist Dave Longley.
Dave first noticed his symptoms six years ago, when he was just 33 years old. "I had mentioned something to my wife. I said, 'You know, I'm noticing just little things: my handwriting is getting worse, right hand trembles and there's no other explanation.' She said, 'Well, why don't you bring it up at your next annual checkup?'"
After he did, Dave's doctor sent him for an MRI
. The resulting images showed white areas - lesions - on his brain. It’s a sign that his immune system is attacking his brain. "Instantly, you're thinking, 'I'm going to be in a wheelchair in 10, 15, 20 years,'" he said.
If the diagnosis had come 20 years ago, Dave might have been right. There was previously no medicine for MS. Today, however, there are drugs that can slow down the disease.
Once each month Dave gets an infusion of Tysabri. The medicine has helped with his fatigue, but another symptom has worsened - his speech. "Its becoming obvious, if I could keep it hidden, I probably would just go about living my life and it's no big deal," he said.
Of course, Dave's speech is just as important to his forecasts as any radar or map. "There are so many people that have MS a lot worse than I have," he said. "I don't want to minimize that, but I remember my wife saying, 'Of all the things, you could have a leg that’s weak or a left arm that’s tingling, but it had to get your speech.' And it's tough."
Dave's neurologist, Dr. Kevin Thomas, says they caught his MS early and the lesions haven't worsened since his first MRI - a very good sign. "From my perspective, if I can catch someone early in MS, I can give them a lot of hope," he said. "We can generally keep people in pretty good shape for a long period of time."
Dave has displayed his bravery in fighting the disease, and in sharing his experience in the hopes that is can help or inspire others. "I may have MS," he says, "But MS doesn't have me."