Monday, October 29, 2007

A country girl at heart

I am a country fan, I’ll admit. And that is strange given that I grew up in Philadelphia where WMMR (Rock) was everyone’s favorite station. But I am a country fan now. And as long as I can listen to the music (and not the kids CD), I do. A few years back, Tim McGraw came out with a song called “Live like you were dying”. And in listening to the lyrics, I thought of my MS, not that MS is going to make me die in a few months but what a concept.

In the song, a man talks about what he did when he was faced with some bad medical news. And the whole point of the song was that the medical news did not stop him from living his life. If anything it made him go out a try things that he may never have tried. It made him a better friend, son and husband. This is the part that reminds me of my MS.

Ok, I have not and will never go sky-diving like the man in the song nor bull riding but I did go
mountain climbing. I have done a lot of things that in part were done because of the MS. I definitely have the thought of “will I be able to do this later or not” go across my mind. And it is a decision factor in what I choose to do today versus tomorrow. Now, I am not saying that I live in today and never plan in the future. I plan in the future all the time and most times MS isn’t even a consideration. We are going to Disney next year and I am not expecting there to be any problems with the MS. But there are definitely some things that I did sooner rather than waiting.

A few years before the song was released, I was asked to speak at a charity event for MS. And of the 200 or so attendees, about 25 actually stopped what they were doing to listen. The rest, the invincible I call them, stood in the back at the bar and kept up their own conversations. I wanted to yell out to them to listen because they too may be faced with a diagnosis, even if it was not MS. I remember being invincible at 22, 23, 24 yrs old, as most of them were around those ages. I was a picture of health (maybe not as toned as I should’ve been). But that ended June 25, 2007 when the doctor said you have MS. Then I didn’t feel invincible at all.

After the speech, I was talking to a few people that had listened and they commented on the lack of attention by so many people. And one of the people in the group said that the people who listened did so because they care – they have MS or someone they know has MS or another chronic disease. And the people that didn’t listen will listen when it becomes real to them. The song reminds me of the invincibles because at the end of the chorus, McGraw says “I hope someday you get the chance to live like you were dying.” It’s kind of what I wanted to say not that I would wish MS or any other disease on a person, but to live life to the fullest is something I struggle to do everyday.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I did IT!

On September 28, 29 & 30th, 2007, I, along with approximately 350 others, walked 50 miles in the MS Challenge Walk here in D.C. This was my second year doing it (it was the events 5th year). What an experience! I recommend it to anyone – if you have MS, a loved one has MS, a friend has MS. It is the best event the MS Society puts on because it REALLY brings the mission to end the devastating effects of MS home.

I have been blessed to be able to participate in a lot of the fundraising events for the MS Society over the years. I was talking to a guy during the walk and realized that I have participated in 17 events (10 MS 150Ks, 5 MS Walks & 2 MS Challenge Walks). And the MS Challenge Walk exceeds the others for me hands down. The walk is hard and I would say it is not for everyone except that there were people using walkers at the start and the finish and that is all they walked. One woman used a scooter for all 50 miles and then walked to the finish line using her walker. So the event is for everyone, even if you don’t walk the 50 miles and walk 2 blocks instead. The event is so well staffed that you don’t have to worry about assistance because it is there all the time. From the SAG (Support and Gear) vehicles driving by with their thumbs up every 5 minutes or so to the guys & gals who stop the traffic so you can cross a busy street to your fellow walkers (with cell phones), you know you are going to be ok.

The best part of the weekend for me was the Candlelight Service on Saturday night. Here, a few selected people got up and talked about why they are participating in the event. I won’t go into any details of what was said but just focus on the underlying theme. And that theme is hope. Everyone has the hope that by walking, they are helping to find a cure so the devastating effects of this disease will be taken away from themselves, their spouses, their sons/daughters, their moms/dads, their friends.

You get a sign that you can wear for the weekend that says why you are walking. I said “I am walking for my family.” I walked so that I can keep playing “chase” with the girls. I walked so I can keep being the same wife my husband married 11 years ago. And most dear to my heart, I walked so researchers have the financial means to find a cure so the girls (E & A) do not get this disease when they get older. I know the risks are still very small that E & A would get MS, but the risks are double that of the general population. So if I can do my part to help find a cure in 15 years (when E turns 20), so that neither of my daughters get MS, I am going to do everything I can to do so.

Now the one limitation to the walk is the fundraising minimum. I heard from quite a few people that said they could do the walk, but couldn’t raise the money. It may vary by chapter and our chapter’s minimum is $1,500 which is a lot of money. But the MS Society helps out with the fundraising by giving you ideas on what to do. I was very blessed by generous friends and family this year in that I raised over $8,000. I know I probably could have done more if I had started earlier. I am often amazed at what people are willing and able to donate. Someone gives you $100 because their sister has MS and you didn’t even know it. It really is amazing because as you walk, you know you have the support of all of the people who donated on your behalf and that helps you to keep walking. I am so thankful for all of my friends and family that gave me their support.

So if you are able, you should check out the MS Challenge Walk, you won’t be disappointed.