Jack Osbourne’s MS Diagnosis, and the Fine Line Between Hope and Reality

I’m not too happy with the recent People magazine cover featuring Sharon Osbourne and her son Jack Osbourne, who recently found out he has multiple sclerosis.

The magazine’s cover headline blares: “I Won’t Let My Son Die.” That’s followed by a promo for the exclusive interview: “Sharon and Jack Osbourne on the diagnosis that has the 27-year-old fighting to save his vision, his future and his life.”

My message to Sharon Osbourne: Multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence!

A little over-dramatic? I’d say so.

I know that the publishing industry is in a sad state today, and headlines like that help sell magazines. But I just hate the impression that such sensational cover language can leave on readers — especially people who are newly diagnosed with MS (about 200 people get the diagnosis every week) or those who know nothing about the disease.

Those people can easily think that MS is a death sentence, and that’s a perception I’m always fighting to change.

As a mom, I can understand how devastating it would be to find out that your child has MS. But come on, even if MS was imminently deadly, what is Sharon Osbourne really going to do to stop her son’s disease?

I’m also angry that the editors at People would have let such a statement run on its cover. MS is not deadly. Yes, severe MS can shorten life, I’ve seen it first hand. But having MS does not mean you’re going to die. Most people with MS have a normal or near-normal life expectancy, according to the National MS Society.

Interestingly, I had a much different reaction after recently watching Jack Osbourne talk about his diagnosis on TV. I thought he did a very good job of describing the disease to the public and showing a positive attitude (you can watch the clip below).

“I am fine. That’s the toughest thing,” he said on “The Talk.” He went on to explain how MS is a “completely unpredictable disease,” and likened it to the “arthritis of the nervous system,” a good analogy. He said he had bladder problems, vision problems and numbness in his legs before his diagnosis. In some ways, it sounded a lot like my own diagnosis story.

When I posted the TV interview on my Facebook page with a note about how I thought he did a great job, a friend of mine who has MS spoke up, saying she felt he was being overly optimistic and nonchalant about his diagnosis.

“It is a big deal and has drastically changed my life,” my friend commented. “Some of us can’t tolerate all meds the same way and primary progressive MS can move very quickly. I was going to ‘beat it’ in the beginning too, but it proved to be too powerful an opponent for me. Now I trust God and have learned to live with it as best I can.”

I really do feel for Jack Osbourne and I’m thrilled he’s taking control of his MS by being on a disease modifying therapy. I hope that he uses his family’s celebrity status to help accurately inform the public about MS and push forward for a cure.

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10 thoughts on “Jack Osbourne’s MS Diagnosis, and the Fine Line Between Hope and Reality

  1. Jennie says:

    This hit the newstands the same week a friend’s husband was diagnosed with MS. As if it wasn’t a scary enough diagnosis, this screamed out at her and added to the terror of the moment. It went from being a life event that they could handle to an OMG, am I planning a future without my husband? Totally unneccessary. But, like you said, it sells. And is maddening. Thanks for the great blog post. I’m sharing it!

  2. Sue Kelly says:

    I found the cover story headline offensive. It was sensational journalism, as far as I was concerned. I actually wrote a letter to the editor, suggesting Sharon’s energy would be better used fundraising! In any case, the editors did publish a statement the next week, apologizing for the headline, since it gave the impression that MS is a fatal disease. Each of our journeys is so very different, and the difference between RRMS and progressive MS is vast. Only by raising awareness can we help everyone understand that there are differences, and repair mechanisms are as important as a cure!

  3. Pati hayes says:

    I’m not dying from MS, maybe his past is catching up with him. Sharon should have read a little farther on MS. We all are going to die. Granted I was scared out of my shorts when my Dr. told me, but I made choices that have helped me live stronger. I think he will be fine, Sharon on the other hand might need therapy.

  4. Sarah Harris says:

    I wondered about the sensational headline but thought I’d wait to hear your thoughts on it since my knowledge isn’t as deep as yours. I seriously wanted to write to them though and introduce them to you and hopefully they could use your passion and their celebrity to really get the truth out there!

  5. It must be disheartening to devote your adult life to educating people about MS and then have to deal with sensationalized statements that falsely proclaim grave inaccuracies. That said….the Osbournes are new to MS. I watched the Jack interview you posted and I loved it! I felt like I had a better understanding of MS and that his attitude was awesome….and appropriate.

    Now, as a momma…..I understand the dramatic and overblown;) We are working through some mystery symptoms with my daughter (who is feeling fine). After almost five MORE hours of testing earlier this week, and appointments for more specialists and testing in the very near future….I am very freshly reminded of my passion towards my child’s health; the fear mixed in with that passion may make me a little on the Sharon side;)

    Additional attention and funding that come from the “People” and talk show brand of information dissemination have obvious drawbacks AND untold potential to help. The Osbournes (esp. momma) may still be learning and dealing with the shock of diagnosis…..but look at all of the amazing work Michael J. Fox has done with and for Parkinsons! I have no doubt that once that family settles in and gets to work, the effect will be positive. I bet the good that will come will far outweigh the ridiculous headline.

    All in all….YOUR life is an amazing advocacy to what is possible when living with MS. Maybe the Osborne family is about to jump on your band wagon;) xo

  6. LoveMyMSLife says:

    Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! And I’m happy that People magazine apologized for the headline.

  7. Marcie Sands says:

    Bringing more awareness to the disease is always a good thing regardless of if it was done well or not. His celebrity status may help in the bigger picture. Keep talking and blogging Trish!

  8. paul evans says:

    Hopefully the Osbornes status and money will help raise awareness and funding for finding a cure or better meds. I appreciate reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

  9. ma says:

    As usual, you have made a very direct hit on a topic that can’t afford to be misrepresented. Well put!
    Proud Mom here…

  10. smith says:

    Being diagnosed with ms doesn’t mean your as good has dead. I was annoyed reading this living with ms know for 10 years. Yes I hurt everyday and you cannot explain how you feel but you get so used to feeling sick you probably won’t know what normal is anymore. You have good and bad days. Until you have ms and know what it is to live with it people shouldn’t make remarks.

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