Retired Pro Ice Hockey Player Bryan Bickell Shares Tips About Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis
Relapsing multiple sclerosis is a disease that forever changes someone’s life. It robs them of independence, mobility, and dignity, but Bryan Bickell, a retired pro ice hockey player, is serving as an inspiration to many as an advocate with a relapsing multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Fortunately, he has found ways to thrive in his life in spite of his diagnosis, and his inspirational positivity and fighting spirit shine brightly as he shares how you can overcome your multiple sclerosis diagnosis too.
Multiple Sclerosis Statistics
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system that impacts 2.3 million people worldwide, and it tragically often strikes people in the prime of their life. Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing MS, which is the most common form of the disease.
Interview with Bryan Bickell and Dr. Timothy Vartanian Compliments of Biogen
I had the distinct honor and privilege of conducting an interview with Dr. Timothy Vartanian, M.D., Ph.D., MS expert, and Bryan Bickell, retired pro ice hockey player regarding relapsing multiple sclerosis. They both hope to encourage others impacted by MS to stay positive and keep fighting for their own goals.
Kaitlin: Hi, I'm just going to start with a brief introduction today for our listeners/readers. Since he was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2016, retired pro ice hockey player Bryan Bickell has taken on a new goal - to face this challenge with the same fighting mentality that got him through his successful years in hockey, while inspiring others in the MS community to do the same. Bryan joins us today along with his doctor, Dr. Timothy Vartanian. Welcome!
Bryan and Dr. Vartanian: Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you!
Kaitlin: Dr. Vartanian, I have some questions for you. What is relapsing MS?
Dr. Timothy Vartanian: Relapsing MS is the most common form of multiple sclerosis, accounting for about 85 percent, and it is an illness characterized by relapses and remissions in which people will experience the onset of symptom… blurred vision, double vision, weakness, numbness, and/or imbalance that progresses to a maximum over maybe a period of a day or a few days and then will resolve back to normal or near normal over a period of several weeks. It is an unpredictable illness. Why those relapses occur is not known for any particular patient and that is a source of significant anxiety I think.
Kaitlin: Wow. I can’t imagine. Yes. Who does it impact and what are some of the symptoms?
Dr. Timothy Vartanian: So it largely impacts young adults. A typical onset would be in the ages 20 to 50. It is more common in women than men but affects both genders. Because it's a disease of the central nervous system, almost any symptom can occur. Anything from blurred vision in one eye to a difficulty with balance or a difficulty with sensation, numbness, or weakness.
Kaitlin: Can you tell us how you've been managing Bryan's condition?
Dr. Timothy Vartanian: Yes. When I met Bryan, we discussed various treatment options and got him on a treatment that made the most sense for him, a highly effective treatment. Then we discussed other lifestyle changes that really have a very positive impact on MS, and Bryan has embraced those. So exercise… obviously, he's an elite athlete, and so he knows about serious exercise, but also nutrition and eating a diet that is healthy. Also having a positive outlook, which I think he has done just an amazing job with.
Kaitlin: Wonderful! What does his diet look like?
Dr. Timothy Vartanian: So I think there are a few features that are important. One is to really have low glycemic foods, foods that don't generate high blood sugar, so that's anything that has free sugar in it. What are white flour, white rice, white pasta… things like that, and then also having a diet rich in unprocessed vegetables and fruits, a colorful plate including berries and nuts and things of that sort. Then fish that are healthy are rich in healthy oils, omega-3 oils, so a small fish like salmon, bass, things of that sort.
Kaitlin: Oh, that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for your insightful answers. I have some questions for Bryan now. How are you feeling these days, Bryan?
Bryan: I'm feeling good. There’s good days and bad days. But overall, pretty good. Being around my family and getting to watch my two girls grow up that are 4 and 2 now, it's been fun!
Kaitlin: Oh, that’s great. How has MS affected your daily life?
Bryan: It really hasn't affected my daily life now obviously being an athlete (before it kind of slowed me down and that's why I kind of had a retired as a hockey player.) You’re in the elite level, you have to push your body to an elite, top-level performance at every given shift. I just didn't feel like I was there so then I had to retire. But overall today, it's been going good. Treatments are going good, and I think everything is lining up in the right direction. We just need to keep aware and if anything does come up to adjust it.
Kaitlin: What advice would you give to those living with relapsing MS?
Bryan: I think to live an active life. If you're not that active when you get diagnosed with MS, I think you need to need to be pushed to be active and to have a positive mental state of mind I think is a big thing that I and my wife did to overcome something so dramatic in my life and my career. A positive attitude is a big thing that has helped us out.
Kaitlin: Where can our listeners go for more information?
Bryan: Yeah. My wife Amanda and I partnered up with Biogen for the last couple of years, and we have a website called TeamBickell.com. It kind of tells my story for the past year and a half of what it took to overcome things and what's next. You can definitely check out TeamBickell.com or even if you want to go on Twitter or Instagram. My wife Amanda and I are @bbicks29 and @Caskenette, and we post things out there all the time.
Kaitlin: Thank you so much. Well, that concludes our interview for today. Thank you so much, Dr. Vartanian and Bryan, for your professional and personal insight regarding a diagnosis of relapsing multiple sclerosis. Bryan, you are such an inspiration to us all, and I know your fighting spirit will strengthen others in their daily battle with MS. Thank you!
Dr. Timothy Vartanian and Bryan: Thank you. Thanks for having us!
In conclusion, multiple sclerosis doesn’t have to define you as a person. It is a challenge you will have to overcome, but Bryan Bickell wants you to enjoy your life with the same zest you did before just as he does every day while serving as an advocate for others with MS. For more information about Bryan Bickell and MS, please click here.