Name: Courtney Van Nostrand
Age: 35
Location: Long Island, New York
Occupation: Pharmacist

Courtney Van Nostrand does drugs…in a good way! This Long Island pharmacist sympathizes with the difficulties her patients are facing, in part because of her own recently-diagnosed struggle with MS.

Courtney has been a pharmacist for nearly ten years. “Being a pharmacist is hard because you’re constantly torn between having a high work load and wanting to help your patients, which takes time away from production. It’s a constant battle to be quick, accurate, and efficient, and still have time to spend time with them,” she says.

Unfortunately being behind the pharmacy counter isn’t the only familiarity Courtney has had with serious illness. In February of 2010, everything in her life changed.

“I was taking my girls to dance lessons near my home. I was at a traffic light and suddenly everything just started looking double,”

“I was taking my girls to dance lessons near my home. I was at a traffic light and suddenly everything just started looking double,” she explains. “I blew it off thinking it was a headache or the glare from the snow, but it got worse over that weekend. I went to the optometrist thinking maybe my glasses were screwy, and he sent me to the doctor.”

After a series of tests, they recommended an MRI. “They discovered the lesions on my brain,” Courtney says. “Then I went to the neurology clinic at Stony Brook, and they confirmed what the specialist thought…”

It was Multiple Sclerosis, also known as MS.

“In one aspect it was great being diagnosed so quickly. I had symptoms in mid-February and was diagnosed late March, while some people go for years without a definitive answer. But it hit me hard because it was the last thing I’d expected to hear.”

The problem with MS is that it presents differently in everyone.

This is me in Costa Rica November 2010 (My husband & I went to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary) I got to hang out with the sloths at the Jaguar Rescue Center.

“In MS, the body’s own defense system attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers in the central nervous system,” Courtney explains. “The damaged myelin causes scar tissue, which is called sclerosis. Depending on where that damage is, people have different symptoms. In my case, the damage is mostly behind my eye which caused the double vision. Fortunately I had a steroid treatment that stopped the damage from happening, and my vision is normal now.”

Although the double-vision has gone away, Courtney’s not sure when, or if, it will return. Additionally, she’s heat sensitive, occasionally to the point of fainting, and sometimes she needs to take naps during the day to cope with the fatigue caused by her MS.

“If I could get one message out to anyone reading this, it’s that MS can be invisible!” Courtney stresses. “You wouldn’t know any of this about me if I didn’t tell you. There are over 2.5 million people worldwide affected by this disease.”

And because MS can be so hard to diagnose, it’s important for attention to be paid to fundraising events like Climb to the Top, which Courtney is participating in next month. The climb is a 66-flight stair ascent at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City on March 4th. Courtney will be climbing with Team Long Island to help raise funds for Long Islanders with the disease.

“I will crawl to the top if I have to, that’s just the type of person I am,” she says. “I know that there isn’t much I can do to stop MS – hopefully the experts will figure it out soon! – but I can keep myself in shape both physically and mentally. Besides the Climb, I also co-captain Team CVAN for Walk MS, which is at Jones Beach on May 6th this year. Right now, I’m working on a yoga fundraiser and a bar event to get donations for our team.”

Because Courtney Van Nostrand helps people stay healthy and raises awareness about MS, we thinks she’s a super-duper Cool Girl! Go, Courtney, go!

To donate to Courtney’s Climb to the Top team, check out their website, or the Team CVAN Facebook page. Whether or not you donate, you can click on either site and see what the team is up to, as well as getting more info about MS.

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