My name is Cris Benson, and I learned that I had multiple sclerosis when I was 50 years old. I’ve lived with it for the last six years and I’m okay with my diagnosis. One of the first things I read on the MS Society website was “Keep a positive attitude,” and that’s true with any chronic disease. People say I’m pretty upbeat.
My diagnosis came when colleagues noticed that I was having a hard time standing up on my own. They were right. I started to need a desk, a doorway, a window sill –– anything around me for balance. I went to see a doctor. Over the span of a month and four costly tests, the doctor called and diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects my movement. I never went back to work.
Initially I was prescribed Avonex which was a $120 per month commitment, which I struggled to afford. After a conversation with my doctor, I was able to get the monthly visit to be reclassified as a service and not a medication so it would be covered under my insurance plan. Around eight months later I had another MRI done, and it showed that the Avonex was not helping me. Rituximab became my next infusion service and again, I had to jump through the same hoops to be able to afford my medication.
Later I began taking Ampyra, a pill that is supposed to help me walk. I have to take Ampyra twice a day, a $1,000 per month cost. I’m lucky and have support to afford the drug, but I worry for other patients.
Before my diagnosis, I was a manager with a portfolio of eight buildings and ran the IT department for 150 employees. Two years after leaving because of my disability, I became a volunteer at Cat Town in Oakland. I facilitate adoptions as the “Cat Adoption Counselor.” I love spending my time here as everyone I interact with has the same passion for cats and love for life that I do.
All I want is the opportunity to afford my drugs so I can continue maintaining my quality of life and a sense of purpose. I can’t do that with legislators who represent Big Pharma’s interests over my own. That’s why I want California voters to vote against Anna Eshoo this November.