Maggie McPhersun
© Matthew Robbins

Maggie McPhersun stands in front of a canvas that she painted, a whimsical print of swirling lines and bright colors. Completing it, she says, was "incredibly painful emotionally." McPhersun, 51, is a registered nurse from Brunswick, Maine. She's also an artist, and she once took commissions, painting intricate portraits - before multiple sclerosis (MS) took away her ability to render faces in fine detail. Her latest painting is her first attempt at a looser style, more suitable for shaky hands and blurry vision.

Less than three years ago, a physician diagnosed MS in McPhersun, but the symptoms, she believes, started two decades ago. Exhaustion hit her often, and she grew depressed every summer. Periodically, she choked on pieces of food. Doctors diagnosed chronic fatigue or depression. Then, she began swaying, listing to the right as she walked. She...

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