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"What we call "MS" might refer to no actual kind in the world." -Nat, Maria's husband


Maria Goldberg.jpg

Nat and Maria are a charming and intellectual couple, and each conversation I have with them makes my head hurt (in the best possible way). Maria was diagnosed in 2008 after a frightening roller coaster that left her, at various times: near-comatose, in a wheelchair, incorrectly diagnosed and victimized by the system.  These experiences remind them there is much more to a disease than just its symptoms.  

Maria chose Georgetown's venerated Dahlgren Memorial Library* to symbolize ‘knowledge is power’. Nat also earned his PH.D there, specializing in epistemology (theory of knowledge) and philosophy of language. MS, and its spectrum of curve balls and uncertainties, is a unique experiment for a philosopher and, I suspect, a way to psychologically manage its horrors. Nat is compelled by the power of naming in science, and what it might unlock about the nature of disease. This conversation, about what we know about the term “Multiple Sclerosis”, led me to medical anthropologists who helped me understand exactly how we arrive at a word, and how important that process is.

Maria believes knowledge puts her in control, and she is participating in this project to provide comfort and testimony that with trust in medicine and a clear sense of self-advocacy, we have weapons. Their portrait was shot in the Neurological Disorders section of the greatest medical library in the United States. Outside, we sat in the library’s prided pharmaceutical garden- a marvelous and actually functional world merging nature, science and the spirit of discovery.

*I almost got kicked out by security before they showed up, but I'll include that in the book.