The short answer is: Because I can. The long answer is much more complicated.
(If you don’t want to read this entire post, let me take this opportunity to ask for your help with sponsoring my walk on April 11th.
Go to my Walk Page, read my story, and donate if you can. Thank you so much.) [[The links from my personal page last year are no longer available.]
Ready for the Long Answer? (I’ll get back to the short answer just ahead.)
I’ve had multiple sclerosis since 1990. Not many people outside my family and close friends and associates knew it all those years. I had a mild form of MS (relapsing/remitting) and experienced few exacerbations over the years. Because I was relatively symptom free, it was easy for me to not have to disclose the fact that I have MS.
I don’t particularly want to use the word “hide”; but some may think that was what I was doing. Whatever you want to believe is fine by me. I prefer “non-disclosure.”
A Short Tutorial
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system.). There is no known specific cause. There is no cure.
Part of the definition of MS (provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) includes this statement:
“The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.”
About 400,000 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with MS. Worldwide, it’s thought to affect 2.1 million people. It’s not contagious or directly inherited. MS is 2-3 times more common in women than in men. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. (I was 37 when I was diagnosed; but as I look back, I exhibited some symptoms 7 years earlier.)
That’s One Reason I’m Walking
For a number of years I’ve wanted to walk; but I never did. A couple of years ago I volunteered to be at the Walk site in Reston assisting with the proceedings (checking people in, handing out T-shirts, cheering walkers as they crossed the Finish Line). It was a long day and incredibly hot. Heat and MS don’t mix well. Becoming overheated can sometimes bring on MS symptoms, if only for a brief period; but I don’t want to take the chance.
I decided that an approximately 2-hour time commitment (walking) would be better than six hours (or more) being at the site. Plus, I could do a little
fundraising [this link from last year is no longer available] as well.
Now, the Short Answer
The reason I’m walking is, literally, “Because I can now.” The quotation above about the unpredictability of MS is one of the reasons I use the word “now.” I can walk now (albeit with a couple of falls in the last few years); but, with MS, you’re never sure it will last. I don’t want to tempt Fate; but I’m enough of a realist to understand that nothing can be taken for granted with this disease.
The unpredictability of the disease is something that is always in the back of my mind. When I “forget” about it sometimes, maybe that’s when the tingling in my fingers gets a little worse as if to say “Ah ha! And you thought you could forget about it! Well, not so fast chickie.”
Want To Know More About MS?
A great place to start is the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. They have a wealth of information on their huge site. A good place to start is with “What we know abut MS” section. There is also a very good multimedia section on the site.