Nothing stops Marci Boyer from spending time with her children, even when multiple sclerosis has tried to slow her down. Marci puts her family first with the help of two important doctors in her life.
Orthopedic surgeon Martin Boyer, MD, had only been working at Barnes-Jewish Hospital about six months when he met the love of his life, Marci, a social worker on the cardiac floor. But while they were dating in the late 1990s, Marci began to experience what she describes as “weird” neurological symptoms. An MRI revealed a lesion on her spine.
In 1999, Anne Cross, MD, a neurologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, delivered the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis (MS). It was just a few months before the Boyers’ wedding.
“Both Marty and Dr. Cross have been with me the whole time,” Marci says. “Dr. Cross is a big part of my life and the only doctor I’ve ever seen for MS.”
Dr. Cross is The Manny and Rosalyn Rosenthal-Dr. John I. Trotter MS Center Chair in Neuroimmunology. Dr. Boyer is the co-chief, Division of Hand and Microsurgery at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Boyer and his wife have been so impressed with Dr. Cross that they decided to support her research with gifts through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
“Anne is a warm, caring, patient advocate who does what is best for the individual patient,” Dr. Boyer says. “We hope that in our own small way, we are helping Anne to help others, and to directly or indirectly, help us.”
MS is a disease that attacks the central nervous system (brain, optic nerves and spinal cord). It can cause a wide variety of symptoms that vary from patient to patient, including problems with strength, walking, vision, bladder and bowel control, pain, balance, depression, memory and other cognitive problems, and seizures. “Dr. Cross believes there could be a cure for MS in her lifetime, and I believe her,” Marci says.
Indeed, there has been dramatic progress in treating MS since Marci was diagnosed 19 years ago. She had very few options then and was tied to painful injections with side effects. Today, Marci’s treatment consists of one pill daily. “I have been blessed not to have a relapse since my diagnosis. I’m as healthy as I can be and I feel good,” she says.
Marci does experience fatigue and a sensitivity to heat due to MS. But she tries not to let either slow her down. In fact, she has a part-time position as a social worker with an adoption agency, counseling both adoptive families and birth mothers. Marci works from home so she can spend time with the Boyer’s children, Jonah, 16, and Ilana, 13, and attend their many athletic events. She also volunteers at their school.
“Marty and I are very family focused,” she says, adding that they try to spend as much time together with their children as possible. “We just really like being with them.”
For example, the Boyers make it a point to go out to a restaurant together every weekend and often cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals or St. Louis Blues at games during the week together. And although Jonah and Ilana are both teenagers, they still like traveling with their parents.
Marci’s good health and ability to engage in these activities is possible because her MS is under control.
The Boyers say that while they make numerous charitable contributions, the funds they donate to MS research are the most meaningful. And while most of their philanthropy is done anonymously, they make their support of MS research public.
“I don’t announce that I have MS but I feel it’s important to give Dr. Cross recognition. If our involvement will inspire others to donate to MS research, that will be amazing,” Marci says. “I owe Dr. Cross a lot.”
“We both do,” adds Dr. Boyer.