Many people who have chronic conditions get tattoos to remind themselves, as well as others, that they are stronger than their disease. Others get ink to raise awareness and to be heard.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 2.5 million people around the world, many of them between the ages of 20 and 40. It’s a chronic condition with no cure, though there are treatments that can slow the disease’s progression.
Here are just a few of the tattoos that people who have MS have gotten to boost awareness about the disease, and to give themselves the strength they need to keep fighting it.
If you’d like to share the story behind your MS tattoo, email us with the subject line “my MS tattoo,” along with: a photo of your tattoo, a short description of what it means to you, and your name (if you wish to be identified).
“I was diagnosed three years ago. At the time I was really struggling with MS and my weight. After a year of waiting for the other shoe to drop, I took back my life and decided I wanted to live, be happy, and as healthy as I can be. I've lost 156 pounds and am in shape to fight this disease. This tattoo is my reminder that even with MS, I am alive and the beat goes on!” -Amy Riley
“I have always wanted a tattoo but never knew what or where. When I first read the Spoon Theory, I knew then what I wanted. Had a childhood friend that was a tattoo artist, knew him since I was in middle school, so what better person than someone who knew me personally? He didn't know I had MS, just what I wanted. After flying back to Florida (I now live in Texas) for treatment, we got together. While I got on the table, he asked me about the orange ribbon, and I explained to him I had MS. He told me that the reason he moved back home was to take care of his grandma who had it as well. I just felt like the entire experience came full circle and had that much more meaning.” -Denise D’Ambrose
“Mine is a wind-blown sun with tattered rays attached to damaged myelin-spoked fibers. The sun represents strength, old, damaged, but with a smirk smile he still fires on … I do want to get another one, but this one was a year in concept, design, and sit down. I am still thinking what and where.” -Dave Warden
“Multiple sclerosis is very aggressive and rapidly progressive, so I am dependent on the electric wheelchair and blind in the left eye. ‘Speranza’ is the Italian word for hope, the tattoo always reminds me to believe in myself and never give up.” -Luana Montanaro
“I decided to get an orange ribbon with a purple infinity sign to symbolize my never-ending fight with MS and fibromyalgia. Then ‘keep s'myelin’ under so I remember to laugh and not sweat the small stuff.” -Mary Dudgeon
“I was diagnosed with RRMS in 2011. My sister (actually best friend but more like a sister) and I always wanted to get sister tattoos. My diagnosis got the best of me emotionally at first then physically. My sister and my family rallied behind me and we started a team for the MS walk in Boise, Idaho. My sister has never left my side through good days and bad, and we decided to finally get a start on our dream of getting a tattoo and added the MS ribbon as a sign of my strength and as a sign to tell others my sister has my back in this fight against it.” -Misty Schwandt
“I recently got an anchor tiny tattoo on the outside of my left ankle because my left side has proven to be my most challenging side since being diagnosed with MS almost a decade ago. My left side frustrates me at times as I draaaag it around, but this simple tiny tattoo reminds me every day to be hopeful and that my left side, as a whole, will be stable and secure.” -Lisa Schlecht
“My tattoo is in honor of my mom who lost her battle with MS in 2014. She loved hummingbirds, but I didn't want anything fancy, just something simple. The ribbon addition idea came to me right before I got the ink. I always have my momma in my heart, now I proudly show her to the world.” -Courtney
“Here is my MS tattoo that was a collaboration between myself and my artist and cousin, Stacey. I knew I wanted a butterfly, to coordinate with another tattoo in memory of my mom, and the word "believe," my life motto. At the last minute, I thought of making the body of the butterfly an MS ribbon in the shape of a ‘b’ to start ‘believe.’ Stacey agreed.” -Nikki Cryan
“I was a young, newly married college graduate who just received a life-altering sentence. The first year was filled with flare after flare and it was through my inability to walk that my strength came from my faith. John 11:4 is a very specific and special scripture that enabled me to face the fear and know my disease was the thing that brought my religion into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The MS ribbon reminds me of what brought me to a deeper faith (represented by a fish).” -Valerie Howlett
“Every time someone asks me about my tattoo, that's one more person made aware that it exists.” -April McKinley
“My mother, Libby, was diagnosed in 1991 with RRMS. After years of battling, she succumbed to complications brought on by MS on November 23, 2009. In December 7, 2008, I received a diagnosis of the same. I am RRMS and a warrior. I fight for both of us. My tattoo is my own design. Mom's favorite flower was daisy. Naturally, the center had to be orange.” -Karen
"I got this tattoo of a demyelinated nerve cell as a birthday present for myself to memorialize my date of diagnosis. I didn't want something anyone else had and I chose the placement because of the correlation of the spine to nerve concentration and lesion location. To me it symbolizes strength, perseverance, and hope.” -Kristin Isaksen
Living with this disease for 11 years now. There is still hope that a cure will be found in my lifetime!” -Mary Arbogast
“I was diagnosed three years after my mom passed away. It was so hard not having her there. I know I'm strong because of her. Fighting this craziness they call MS isn't always easy but I know I can make it through and I know my mom and my family and friends are right there. I love my tattoo because it's got the whimsical beauty that is this journey we call life. MS is just a part of mine — not the whole thing.” -Lacey T.
“For years, even before I was officially diagnosed, butterflies were always around me, they are a symbol of hope.” -Kristina Palmer
“The thorns are the metaphor for my MS. The courage is what I need every day and the roses are for the years I’ve had MS.” -Jeannie L.
“I got this tattoo for my mom, who has MS. This woman is my rock and I would do anything for her. Her story is amazing and she overcomes so many things every day! Please share and spread the awareness of MS!” -Kennedy Clark
“Although I was devastated by my diagnosis, I wasn't going to let it take over my life. A tattoo shop was doing breast cancer ribbons, and all proceeds were being donated to research. My two sons, husband, and I all decided to get MS tattoos, knowing proceeds were going to a good cause. A family that tattoos together stays together — they're my world.
“Life's beautiful and reminds me to ‘just breathe’ each day. It reminds me that so many have MS with different symptoms, but we are all family.” -Londonne Barr
“I gave my artistic 13-year-old daughter my thoughts on what I'd like in a tattoo after being diagnosed in 2014 and she created this beautiful piece of art. My favorite animal, the lion, represents the strength needed in many areas of my life and needed to save my spoons daily.” -Lovey Ray