It’s an unlikely occurrence in an unlikely family. Alan Osmond, one of the founding members of the iconic 1970s musical group The Osmonds, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Then, his son David, now 36, has met with the same diagnosis.
Although it’s never been scientifically confirmed, some studies have shown that the neurological disease may be genetic. It is highly unusual for the father-son pair to have the illness, and they have two different forms of the disease. And, after winning many awards from many different health organizations for their openness about battling the disease, the father-son team continues to tell their stories and provide inspiration for others.
Father Alan Osmond, now 66, was diagnosed 30 years ago with primary-progressive Multiple Sclerosis which has a gradual worsening of physical and cognitive functions. It was 10 years ago that his son, David, who performed with the 2nd Generation Osmonds, discovered that he had a relapsing-remitting form of MS, which is more common.
All his life, David has known his father to have MS. He said, “As I got older, and his MS began to become more difficult for him physically, ultimately forcing him to leave the stage, I could tell how hard and painful it was for him.”
David graduated from college in 2005 and was unable to walk for about a year. He was confined to a wheelchair and was originally mis-diagnosed with West Nile Virus and then found to have MS, which is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system and the body’s white blood cells attacks the myelin which coats the nerves. The illness can result in paralysis, stiffness, numbness, tingling, loss of vision and speech as well as persistent pain. When David felt pain and experienced vision problems, he didn’t think it was MS at first. He told his wife one day that he felt like his feet had been crushed by a steamroller. That led him to get the diagnosis.
He thought he would get worse and have the same physical problems that his dad experienced, but he was given a steroid treatment (methylprednisolone) that helped him for a short time. He didn’t do any of the treatments requiring weekly or daily injections, but instead opted for a lifestyle and diet change. Then, he started the first MS drug that can be taken orally for relapsing-remitting MS called Gilenya (fingolimod).
David has recently joined the fight over this past Christmas season for DUI prevention and performed at a charity event for the Utah Highway Safety Office. He wrote a song last year called “I Can Do This” which was part of a campaign for Novartis, which is a company that creates the medication he is using. He even has performed it with his famous aunt, Marie Osmond, for charity events.
His goal is to encourage people to fight, like he and his father have done. He encourages people to ask their doctors tough questions and find out the best solution for their situation. David points out that there are many options now for MS treatment, certainly compared to the days that his father was diagnosed. “I know I’m lucky to have the support of my amazing family,” David said. “The least I can do is give back by encouraging others to get involved.
In early January 2009, David auditioned for “American Idol” when he was 18, and he was able to tell his story about overcoming MS. The stint on “Idol” connected him with another popular finalist, David Archuleta, and they have performed at MS fundraisers together. David already proved his singing chops before going on “Idol” because he understudied for Donny Osmond in the stage show musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” And, David took over the show a few times when Donny was out for illness.
Although he has trouble playing the guitar now, David said, “Music is my life, and I had the chance to share it once again with everyone who watches ‘American Idol.’ Although my time in the pressure cooker was short lived, it still was a great opportunity for me to let people know a little more about Multiple Sclerosis. It has also led to a whole new array of radio and television opportunities.”