I am not able to speak for everyone with Multiple Sclerosis, but in my case, weather is a major contributor to relapses with my MS. Not that cold is better than hot or hot better than cold or even the fluctuations of the drastic changes in temperature on Spring and Autumn days in the South. There are days we run the air-conditioner in the day and heat is on at night. These extremes and fluctuations where brutal to my MS symptoms.
Now I am living in Medellin, Colombia, South America. Many ask why an American would leave the U.S. to live in Colombia? The simple answer – weather! The nickname for Medellin is The City of Eternal Spring. For someone with MS like me… the climate is ideal. With fewer days of really hot or really cold and the fluctuations of a mild Spring day back home (1.5 hours North of New Orleans), I notice fewer relapses while in Medellin. By no means does it mean they go away, but the severity of relapses is reduced as well as the frequency. Regardless of climate, fatigue remains my chief adversary! Even here I fool myself into believing I am able to do more than I actually am capable of.
With a new place to live comes the obvious challenges like finding a place to live, learning a new neighborhood and making new friends. Moving to a new country adds even more challenges like language and immigration issues. Fortunately for me, Colombia actually has a special visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia – a pensionado visa. This visa is granted to anyone with a pension (Social Security is considered a pension). Any Colombian Consulate or Embassy in the U.S. can give you the step by step process for getting this visa. The downsides are: it is a government agency so understand going into it that foreign governments are as bureaucratic as ANY government and the visa needs to be renewed annually. This process is always subject to change especially and now more so because the Colombian Free Trade Agreement is being implemented with the United States of America (which MAY even simplify thing more – cross my fingers). I cannot (will not) discuss the political issues associated with the Free Trade Agreement until I learn and know more about it.
Making new friends in Colombia is EASY – they are a welcoming people! But for me, there is the added obstacle to educate friends about how my MS affects me. One main reason is because Multiple Sclerosis is much less common in South America in general versus North America. Just as the climate seems to reduce my relapses and symptoms, it also reduces seems to reduce how the local population is affected. The photo shows, the further south one goes, the fewer MS diagnoses. Since there are fewer people diagnosed with MS, it is even more important to try to educate my friends how this illness affects me. My experience has been overwhelmingly supportive! Just like in the U.S.A., there are many misconceptions, but once I explain, most are understanding AND supportive.
Medellin may not be the best solution for ALL people with MS and I cannot even advocate
ANY one else would find it as beneficial as I do, but it could be an option for some. Medellin is now ranked the #1 city in Colombia (link below) “According to this year’s study, Medellin made massive improvements in several areas including environmental initiatives, where it jumped three places to rank fifth. In human capital rankings, which consider health, education and employment opportunities, Medellin came in second place, moving up one spot. “We will strengthen(…) the goal of furthering the education and training of our human talent to achieve equity and remove inequalities,” assured Medellin’s Mayor Anibal Gaviria.” I always mention Colombia’s tourism campaign slogan Colombia: the only risk is wanting to stay and my slogan for Colombia would be: Colombia: it is not what you think… it is so much MORE (maybe I should trademark that? lol)!
*I am not a medical expert of any kind and this article only reflects my personal opinions and experiences!