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Illness Onset as Status Passage for People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Author: MARGARET H. VICKERS
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 33 No. 2

The lived experience of the Illness Onset Status Passage for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is explored here. Glaser and Strauss’ (1971) status passage is used to analyse the properties of this Status Passage. The Illness Onset Status Passage for people with MS includes three key phases: (1) An Unknown Passage lived as either what are thought to be “Harmless” Symptoms or, conversely, as Alarming Symptoms, both of which are experienced without knowledge of having MS; (2) Incomplete Knowledge (ie accompanying initial diagnosis) Lived as Felt Stigma arising as a result of the person’s own lack of useful knowledge of the disease at the point of diagnosis, and compounded by negative community stereotypes about MS; and, (3) Living Thrownness, where the person with MS is thrown into turmoil and ill equipped to deal with their changed life. While it is acknowledged that the life journey for people with MS will contain multiple status passages, this initial status passage – the Illness Onset Status Passage -- needs to be better understood so that people with MS get the support that they need from health care professionals and others at such a critical time in their lives.

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