Music and therapy help woman battling MS live life to the fullest

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach woman diagnosed with an often-disabling disease is hitting many high notes in her life, despite the challenges she faces.

Jocelyn Owens is using music and a breakthrough treatment to help her through her battle with multiple sclerosis. She says the disease is forcing her to live life outside of the box. 

Owens has two children and she says she wants to retire from her job at the Salvation Army when she’s 67 years old. She also wants to keep her positive outlook on life by continuing to hit high notes, regardless of her diagnosis. 

“Once you know what you are fighting, I think you can fight,” said Owens. 

Owens was diagnosed at 55 with primary progressive MS. She says her symptoms started when she was working out with a trainer for a 5K race. 

“I had some problems with this left leg, I would catch it on things, it felt like it would drag a little bit,” said Owens. “I still tripped in that 5K, but I got through it, and after that, I said something is not right.”

After many tests — and even physical therapy — she finally received a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, of her brain and cervical spine.

Owens said that was when doctors found the evidence. Her diagnosis came just days later. 

“[My MRI] looked almost like a Christmas tree, white lights. Those white lights are lesions,” Owens said.

The lesions are a sign of MS, the unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

“The first thing I Googled was ‘Is MS terminal’ and it said no, so I was like OK, I’m good,” Owens said.

Owens said she remains in good spirits and she is working to do something progressive by playing guitar, among other activities. She plays even when her hands feel numb and she admits that she is getting better — with time. 

“The neat part is I couldn’t do it before because my finger strength wasn’t the best,” Owens said. “I have a great teacher. She has MS too.”

Music helps her cope with the disease as she’s forced to remember notes, think critically and process information — all aspects that are affected by MS, in her case. Playing music coupled with a breakthrough treatment called Ocrevus is helping her to live life to the fullest. 

“I started it not long ago. There are infusions of 4 hours and then 8 hours,” Owens said.  “Nothing is going to save me, MS is MS. I don’t think medicine saves anyone, it going to improve my quality of life. There was nothing before for primary progressive MS.”

According to its website, Ocrevus targets a type of immune cell called a CD20-positive B cell that plays a key role in the disease.

“I don’t think God gave me MS, I have MS and then the people that I’ve been blessed with because of this diagnosis are what I get from God. Those are the angels that come into your life,” Owens. said. 

There’s hardly a flat note in her story. Instead, it’s filled with the perfect harmony, a fast tempo — upbeat — much like her attitude towards her battle with MS.

“We get things and God helps us through, God gives me people to guide me through multiple sclerosis. I have a lot of people in my life that I didn’t have before.”

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