A little while ago, I wrote about making time to volunteer. As I wrote there, I have chosen to maintain involvement in just a few specific health-related organizations due to the connection I have with each. One of those organizations is the MS Society. Tonight is the patron party for donors who have contributed to next week’s Uncorking the Cure for MS fundraiser. I was asked to speak briefly tonight about my connection with MS and thought it would be a good post here as well.
I was a junior in college when my mom was diagnosed with MS in 1994. Imagine being a 21 year old college student, living 1000 miles away from my family and having very little contact with them during a two week period in September of that year. I was terrified.
That entire summer, my mom was having trouble with numbness and we all thought it was a pinched nerve. She went to our family doctor as well as a chiropractor for treatment but nothing helped. In September, our family doctor finally said he wasn’t sure what was going on so he referred her to a neurologist in Tulsa for further tests. During her initial visit with this doctor, he chose to immediately admit her to St. Francis for additional testing.
The initial response from the doctors was one of two things: either she had MS or it was a spinal cord tumor. We prayed for MS. Thank goodness for her persistent neurologist who refused to accept the spinal cord tumor diagnosis and pushed for more tests, which finally confirmed she had multiple sclerosis.
Her doctor immediately gave her steroids to decrease the swelling. Just days after being released from the hospital she and my dad made a trip to Minnesota to see me for my 21st birthday. It was odd to have my mother, who had rarely eaten an entire meal at a restaurant having a ravenous appetite thanks to those steroids.
The doctor chose to start my mom on one of the ABC interferon drugs. She took that drug for about 10 years until she went back for one of her check-ups to be told that there are no new lesions since her initial diagnosis. After calling her his “success story”, her neurologist said it wasn’t necessary for her to continue unless she has problems.
Now, 15 years since being diagnosed, my mom continues to live with MS symptoms such as numbness and pain in her hands and feet as well as optical nerve damage which affects her eye sight. If you are not personally connected to her in some way, you would never know my mom has MS. Since the day she was diagnosed, my mom has chosen to live her life to its’ fullest, not letting her “minor” issues prevent her from enjoying her crafts and family activities. She says that the encouragement and support that we as her family have provided have helped her maintain her positive outlook. I disagree. She is a strong woman of faith and I believe her positive attitude is one of the biggest reasons the rest of us are able to support her so well.
I have chosen to become involved with the MS Society because I want a cure for my mom and best friend. I pray that her disease will remain in its’ regressive stage until there is a cure so she can hold her future grandchildren and spend time doing all the things she enjoys with them. I believe strongly that the money we raise can help fund programs and research that will allows families like mine to live a full life and dream of someday finding that cure.