What's in a name?
Shakespeare asked that question. So did the great 20th-century writer Gertrude Stein. Names are never trivial issues because they frame and define a topic.
When we published a letter from a reader who objected to the name of the Momentum section called "Advanced MS," we asked for reader suggestions. This set off a healthy round of correspondence. Much of it was deeply thoughtful, reflecting people's experiences living with this disease. Some said the Society's magazine soft pedals reality, painting a too-sweet picture of MS. Others noted that they know about the nasty side of MS well enough, thank you, and they want to be sure they're picking up a magazine that emphasizes the positive.
Thus it wasn't surprising that the names people suggested ranged from fanciful to grim. It was surprising that on balance there was a kind of consensus after all. No one suggested we drop the section that deals with heavy problems. Many agreed that a serious loss can occur almost anytime in the course of MS. Difficult problems are not neatly confined to people with "Advanced MS." Other people reminded us that overwhelming loss is not inevitable--not even for those who have lived with progressing MS for decades. Losses can be managed well by incremental adjustments and there are unexpected rewards, too. For some people. At some times.
We've gone ahead with a change. We renamed the section "Major Challenges." But we recognize this isn't perfect either. After all, a daily bout of MS fatigue in a young parent "who looks so well"--is a major challenge.
Still, we hope "Major Challenges" does two important things: First, it serves as a warning label to those who don't feel like reading about problems that may never happen to them anyway. Second, it recognizes that MS can pack a major blow--and this magazine has a place where that can be discussed openly.
Now if only the World Wide Web were as thoughtfully labeled! See "Safe Travels" (page 22) and let us know what you think.
Martha King, Editor, Momentum
National MS Society
733 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017