Columbus, OH,
19:30 PM

Dr. Mysheika Roberts' Journey with Multiple Sclerosis

Behind her successful career, Dr. Mysheika Roberts, health commissioner for the city of Columbus, has been living with a life-changing diagnosis for the past 24 years - Multiple Sclerosis (MS). 

Dr. Roberts, a member of the OhioHealth Faith, Culture and Community Benefit Committee, began her journey with MS during her medical school residency in 1999 when her world was suddenly clouded by blurry vision. At that time, she was diagnosed with optic neuritis, a condition where the optic nerve becomes inflamed, causing vision issues. However, the cause remained unknown. 

"Everything came back inconclusive," Dr. Roberts shared with 10TV anchor Tracy Townsend

Six months later, a new challenge arose as she woke up one day with double vision. Concerns about multiple sclerosis were raised, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, causing symptoms like numbness, tingling, memory problems and paralysis. 

"At that point they were like you could have multiple sclerosis, but we don't know," Dr. Roberts said. Her parents, both in healthcare, were hesitant to accept the diagnosis without more concrete evidence. 

Despite the uncertainty, she was advised to wait another six months before undergoing an MRI test for MS. When she finally had the test and received her results, she delayed facing them for two weeks, until she couldn't ignore the reality, feeling as if she was walking on rocks. 

"They pulled me in a room, and they read the results," Dr. Roberts said. "At that point, my MRI showed definitive signs and symptoms of MS." 

This diagnosis shook Dr. Roberts and her family, as they had experienced the devastating impact of MS before. A relative had been diagnosed with MS in a time when treatments were scarce, eventually succumbing to the disease. 

"When I got diagnosed, that's the only thing my family knew about MS," Dr. Roberts said. "They were terrified." 

She started her treatment journey, initially managing symptoms through daily injections of Copaxone. Over time, advancements in treatments allowed her to transition to receiving infusions every six months. Despite the challenges, she has experienced only a few flare-ups and has no handicaps from the disease. 

Dr. Roberts has become an advocate for MS awareness, especially within the African American community. Research from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has brought attention to the underrepresentation of Black people in MS research and their potential for more aggressive disease progression. 

"Most people, if not everyone, has no idea that I'm living with this disease," Dr. Roberts said. She wants to dispel the fear associated with an MS diagnosis in the African American community, urging them to trust in science. 

"African Americans, at least the ones I've spoken to and witnessed with this disease, are just so afraid of this label, of this diagnosis and what it could mean, and they don't want to trust the science," she said. "This can be a treatable disease. It can be a manageable disease, particularly if caught early and if treated right.” 

To learn more about OhioHealth’s multiple sclerosis care, click here.