The next time you frequent your preferred coffee shop, take a moment to peruse the messages inscribed on the cups. A collective of 66 coffee shops nationwide has joined hands with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic autoimmune ailment. These cafes will dispense your beloved coffee in cups emblazoned with the slogan 'Navigating MS Together', along with badges and stickers, all contributing to and promoting MS awareness. The cups will feature a QR code that grants access to personal anecdotes and information about the condition.

Khaleej Times recently attended the launch of this initiative at one of the participating cafes, Pekoe Tea & Bread Bar. Baristas were proudly donning badges and serving coffee in branded cups carrying messages such as 'Supporting the fighter, admiring the survivors'.

What is MS? Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable condition that affects the central nervous system, disrupting the transmission of information between the brain and spinal cord. Up to 84% of MS patients endure cognitive alterations, fatigue, and mobility challenges. Visual impairments are also prevalent, hindering everyday activities and impairing quality of life. This underscores the imperative for heightened public awareness and support.

The campaign commences on May 30, World MS Day, and will run until June 2. It will also spotlight rebranded orange coffee cups, symbolizing hope for MS patients. Orange signifies optimism, confidence, enthusiasm, and warmth. 'I felt something was wrong' Mariam Al Qubaisi, an MS ambassador at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, shared her journey: 'I was 17 when I initially experienced symptoms of MS. It was during my high school sports day that I sensed something was amiss,' she recounted to Khaleej Times.

Describing her revelation, the Emirati revealed, 'Following my high school graduation, while traveling with my family, I awoke one day unable to move. It took several years and a few misdiagnoses before I was ultimately diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS (RRMS) in 2019.' Mariam's encounter with the lack of information and misconceptions surrounding MS evoked anxiety and bewilderment in her. Nevertheless, over time, she acquired a better comprehension of and approach to managing her condition.

'Prior to my diagnosis, my understanding of MS was limited to what I had learned in science classes. However, this knowledge failed to provide comprehensive insight into the effects of MS, including its impact on mental health.'

Understanding and managing MS Thanks to her first-hand experiences of coping with and triumphing over MS, Mariam garnered a profound understanding of the condition. She expressed, 'Over time, I have amassed extensive knowledge about MS, enabling me to better comprehend my condition and address my symptoms.' The Abu Dhabi resident expressed her enthusiasm for the coffee cup campaign and her belief in its potential positive impact.

'There is a pressing need for increased awareness of MS. I have lived with MS for 11 years, and yet I continue to encounter individuals who are unfamiliar with the condition. I am certain that the campaign will serve as an educational tool for the public.' The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has been actively lending support to the MS community in the UAE. Earlier this month, they hosted an MS advocate, Dr. Ahmed Shatila, a consulting neurologist and a member of the NMSS Medical Committee, at The Galleria in Abu Dhabi, where he imparted awareness and fielded queries about MS.

Founded in 2022 under the aegis of the Ministry of Community Development, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a non-governmental entity based in the UAE, dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals grappling with MS and their communities through education, advocacy, and the advancement of global endeavors to discover a cure for the condition.