When Teah Burse needed to find a specialist in multiple sclerosis care, she followed a practical path to a providential choice.

She checked with her insurance to see which neurologists were in her network. She compared their training and experience. One doctor stood out even though she was so new to Novant Health her "About Me" page was still a work in progress.

Dr. Jennifer Lord

"That last name tells you everything," Burse said, relying on faith to choose Dr. Jennifer Lord, who treats patients at Novant Health Multiple Sclerosis Care - SouthPark, a comprehensive MS treatment center in Charlotte. "Whether it was just the name or not, I knew God had my back, and it was transformative for me."

Burse didn't know it at the time, but her diagnosis with the incurable and potentially disabling disease would open opportunities. She has served others, shared her Christian faith, raised awareness about MS – a disease affecting nearly 1 million Americans – and earned recognition as one of Charlotte's 50 Most Dynamic Women of 2023. The 34-year-old Monroe businesswoman is still trying to process it all.

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The events that would change Burse's life began in the fall of 2022.

After a series of severe migraines didn't respond to treatment, she was hospitalized after a sudden loss of vision in her right eye. After she received steroid infusions, imaging and a spinal tap, a visiting specialist told her there was a 30% to 50% chance she had MS.

That sent her to Lord.

At that point, Burse and her husband, DeAngelo, knew little about MS, and her symptoms didn't yet prompt that diagnosis.

Certain she could "fix" everything with tweaks to her already healthy eating habits, dietary supplements and exercise, Burse doubled down. Then one Saturday, during a workout, her arm went numb and tingly – and stayed that way. Lord ordered an immediate MRI.

"That Monday she called me and she said, 'I need you to just sit for a second,' " Burse recalled. The MRI had revealed lesions on her brain and upper spine. She had MS.

Treatment options are growing

In MS, the body's defense system against germs and viruses goes haywire. It attacks the central nervous system, damaging the insulation that protects nerves and disrupting signals to and from the brain and within it. The lesions that result can cause numbness, tingling, imbalance, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis.

Burse has the most common type of MS – relapsing-remitting, in which symptoms come and go. Its course is unpredictable.

But doctors have a growing arsenal of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) to treat it – with more in the pipeline. Clinical trials of some are conducted at the South Park MS clinic.

“There is no cure for MS. Before these medications, patients gradually worsened as they developed disabling symptoms due to recurrent relapses,” Lord said. “Now with more effective treatments, we are better equipped to prevent MS disease activity and keep patients living their best quality of life.”

Although MS is a lifelong disease, she added, MS typically quiets down once patients reach their 60s, allowing them to discontinue their DMT.

The once-a-day pill Lord prescribed for Burse – Zeposia (ozanimod) – aims to prevent relapses and reduce the number of new lesions. Burse undergoes regular brain and spine scans so Lord can see how well the treatment is working and make adjustments if needed.

A Stamp of Approval

Novant Health Multiple Sclerosis Care - SouthPark was recently award a coveted seal of approval from the National MS Society.

It was recognized after an exhaustive review as a Center for Comprehensive MS Care. The society named its three providers – Lord, Dr. Jill Conway, and nurse practitioner Marie Moore – Partners in MS Care.

The endorsements followed an outside review of treatment at the clinic, located at Novant Health SouthPark Medical Plaza in Charlotte.

Comprehensive centers provide coordinated care from providers with special expertise in MS, from initial evaluation to ongoing management. The SouthPark clinic has an on-site infusion center, and clinics in the same building offer easy access to imaging, lab services, physical and occupational therapy, along with support for good mental health.

Patients may also have access to leading-edge clinical trials of new MS therapies.

Address: 6324 Fairview Road Suite 330, Charlotte, N.C. 28210

Phone: 704-316-2680

A doctor’s commitment

For Burse, whose Indian Trail-based company Creative Share Group specializes in festival art, event decor and other creative projects, accepting that she has an incurable disease hasn't been easy.

She used to run three miles a day; now she walks a couple of miles three times a week. She fights fatigue, "brain fog" and muscle spasms. Her three children – Jenesis, 18, Haven, 9, and Cadence, 8 – notice and help however they can.

She and DeAngelo set aside Friday mornings to share devotions, learn more about the disease and encourage each other. Absent a medical miracle, she won't get better, and they're hopeful she won't get worse.

"I'm constantly in the mindset of who I used to be, but I had to pull back and remind myself, 'Hey, wait a minute. You're not that girl anymore.' It's definitely a lifestyle change, and it's both physical and mental," Burse said.

Accepting her diagnosis took time. "Me and God duked it out in the beginning – I was very upset," Burse recalled. "But my faith has been my cornerstone, so I just chose to bite the bullet and get in the ring with it instead of backing away from it."

She asked her congregation at New City Church in Matthews to pray for her.

"It wasn't until I put in that prayer request that everything just changed for me," Burse recalled in a moving video posted on New City's YouTube channel. It started with an emailed prayer from another member of the church, followed by handwritten letters and devotionals in her mailbox that moved her ahead.

Fast Facts About MS

  • Nearly 1 million Americans have MS – 74% of them are women.
  • Your risk of developing is about 1 in 750 to 1,000.
  • Most people are diagnosed between 20 and 50 years of age.

SOURCE: National MS Society

"They don't know that it was exactly what I needed," Burse said. "I was able to start treatment, find the medical team that I needed to almost immediately."

She couldn't be happier with her choice of MS neurologist. Lord is a good listener, Burse said, and never makes her feel rushed. She responds to MyChart messages "almost immediately" by e-mail or phone.

"She really takes the time to make sure that I'm OK – and that things are good with my whole self," she said. "My husband, of course, comes to every appointment with his questions. She's spent so much time with us, and we leave feeling more confident, more secure with what's going on."

Paying it forward

Burse’s confidence grew and word of her condition spread. One by one, other women with an MS diagnosis or symptoms opened up to her – a neighbor, a childhood friend, a member of her church family, among them. Now, she views it as her mission to encourage them. And they buoy her – a text-based, 21st-century, 24/7 support system.

After her diagnosis, Burse began to change in other ways, as well.

Though she'd never done anything like it before, she launched a fundraiser for the National MS Society on social media. She and a team that included her business partner, Elizabeth Del Rosario, took part in the 2023 Walk MS event and raised more than $700. They're already signed up for this year's Charlotte walk, on April 13.

Del Rosario, who has known Burse for about 10 years, was among a group of women who put Burse's name forward for Charlotte Media Group's 2023 Dynamic Woman Award.

She is amazed at how MS and faith have emboldened Burse, who tended to shy away from the spotlight. She was especially surprised when Burse agreed to share her story at church.

"I think that initial lifeline letting her know we are with you and some of us have dealt with it was a huge mental relief. From what she told me I understood that her courage came from the hope that speaking out would help give visibility to other people who were silently dealing with their own MS battles," Del Rosario said. "She knows how scary it is and she doesn't want others to go through it alone."