Picture this: reality stars Jack Osbourne and his sister, Kelly, trying to escape from a self-destructing alien space ship. To do it, they’ll need to correctly answer questions about multiple sclerosis.
"It's easy to tell if someone has MS," reads one question. True or false? “False,” answers Jack, and the pair move on.
"How many people in the world have MS?" reads another. "2.3 million,” answers Kelly, correctly.
But why is the Osbourne family trying to escape from a spaceship, one might wonder?
No, they haven’t been kidnapped by aliens. Jack has teamed up with an escape room in Los Angeles to create the latest webisode for his You Don’t Know Jack About MS (YDKJ) campaign. Created in partnership with Teva Pharmaceuticals four years ago, the campaign aims to provide information to those who are newly diagnosed or living with MS.
"We wanted to make the campaign educational and fun and lighthearted,” says Jack. “Not doom-and-gloom, the-end-is-near kind of stuff.”
“We keep the vibe positive and uplifting and we sprinkle in education through entertainment."
A need to connect and empower
Osbourne was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) in 2012 after seeing a doctor for optic neuritis, or an inflamed optic nerve. Before the eye symptoms occurred, he had been experiencing pinching and numbness in his leg for three months straight.
"I ignored the pinching in my leg because I thought I just pinched a nerve," says Jack. "Even when I got diagnosed, I thought, 'Aren't I too young to get this?' Now, I know the average age of diagnosis is between 20 and 40."
Osbourne says he wished he would have known more about MS before being diagnosed. "When the doctors told me, ‘I think you have MS’, I kind of freaked out and thought: ‘The game is over.' But that may have been the case 20 years ago. It's just not the case anymore."
Soon after learning he had MS, Osbourne tried to connect with anyone he knew with the disease to get firsthand, personal accounts of living with MS. He reached out to his family's close friend Nancy Davis, who founded Race to Erase MS, as well as Montel Williams.
"It's one thing to read [about MS] online, but another to reach out and hear it from someone who's been living with the disease for a while to get a good understanding of what the day-to-day looks like," Osbourne said. "That's been the most helpful."
To pay it forward, Osbourne wanted to be that person and place for other people living with MS.
On YDKJ, Jack posts a range of webisodes—sometimes featuring appearances from his parents, Ozzy and Sharon—as well as blog posts and links to MS resources. He says his goal is for it to become the go-to resource for people who are recently diagnosed with MS, or simply curious about the condition.
"When I was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time on the internet and going to websites and blogs and found there wasn't really a quick one-stop shop on MS,” he recalls. “I wanted to create a platform for people to go to and learn about MS.”
Living a great life with MS
Jack recalls a time when a friend — who also has MS — was told by a doctor to take Advil, go to bed, and start watching daytime talk shows, because that was all her life would be.
"That is just not true. The fact that there are so many amazing advances out there and knowledge about the disease, [people need to know] that they can continue on [even with limitations] especially if they are on the right treatment plan," explains Jack. Despite the real challenges MS presents, he says he wants to inspire and provide hope that “you can live a great life with MS.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t daily challenges, and that he does not worry about the future. Indeed, Jack’s diagnosis came just three weeks before the birth of his first daughter, Pearl.
“The inherent concern with not being able to be physically active or totally present for everything in my kids' lives is scary," he says. "I exercise regularly and watch my diet, and have tried to minimize stress—but that's nearly impossible when you have kids and work.”
“Still, I haven't felt limited since being diagnosed. Other people have felt I've been limited, but that's their opinion.”
Jack certainly hasn’t been limited in sharing his story and living life to the fullest. Since being diagnosed, he’s participated in “Dancing with the Stars,” expanded his family, and used his celebrity to spread awareness, share information, and connect with others living with MS.
“I get messages through social media, and people on the street come up to me all the time, whether they have MS or a family member or friend does. MS has definitely connected me with people I never thought I would. It's cool, actually."