Nearly four years ago, I woke up one morning with the entire right side of my face numb. I didn’t know at the time that this triggered a series of events that included an MRI of my brain, a spinal tap and two hospital stays within six months receiving steroid treatments. I was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or MS.
When my neurologist first told me I had MS, I didn’t know what it was but I knew it wasn’t good. Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body and stops people from moving. Doctors do not know what causes MS, and there is no cure for it.
As I lay in my hospital bed recovering from my first MS flare, I began learning about the disease. I was familiar with campaigns for other diseases like wearing pink for breast cancer and Go Red for women’s heart disease. I wondered if MS had a color associated with it.
It did. The color is orange. I wasn’t exactly inspired by this and felt like all the good colors had already been taken. A few months into my recovery, I was driving through post and a guidon in front of a Signal unit caught my attention. It was orange.
Suddenly a connection was made. Signal units maintain the network. MS is a disease that impacts the proper working of a person’s neurological network. Orange is the perfect color to represent this. That was the day I embraced the color orange as an inspiration and a sign of hope.
As I began to be inspired by the color, I learned the Pantone® Institute had chosen a shade of orange, Tangerine Tango, as the 2012 Color of the Year. The institute describes the color as a vivacious, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy. Orange wasn’t just a sign of hope — it was a fashion statement!
Suddenly orange was everywhere in stores. I began incorporating it into my wardrobe. People around me responded positively to the bright, sunny color.
Talking to them gave me an opportunity to explain the message of the color orange, and in doing so I connected with so many who either had MS themselves or had loved ones who did.
Now when I go about my daily routine and see a random pop of orange somewhere, I smile. Thanks to the Signal units on Fort Huachuca, I see the color frequently. Orange inspires me and connects with thousands of others who are on the same MS journey I am. More than 400,000 people in the U.S., and 2.1 million worldwide, have MS. Each week, approximately 200 people are diagnosed with the disease — one person every hour.
MS Awareness Week is this week, March 11-17. If you have MS or know someone who does, wear orange as a sign of solidarity, support and hope for a cure. Seeing you wear orange will make me smile. Colors matter and inspire hope.