50 Mile MS Challenge Walk

This is why I run, walk, and bike.

Getting closer to the MS 50 Mile Challenge Walk here in St. Louis, MO.  I asked my friend Jen Mason, who has Multiple Sclerosis, if she wouldn’t mind blogging about her experience and share with others.  I’m still $400.00 short of my goal, so if you would like to sponsor me, please go to this link:

http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Challenge/MOSChallengeWalkEvents?px=11943326&pg=personal&fr_id=19466

Enjoy and keep on moving….

Jen & Greta. MS 50 Mile Walk. Individuals that wore orange shirts have MS.

A few weeks ago my dear friend, Laurel, contacted me to tell me that she heard about this walk that raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society.  After a few minutes I realized that she meant the 50 mile walk!!  Three days, fifty miles, closer to a cure!!  I shared with her that I had walked that walk in Baltimore, MD about 8 years ago, and it was the most rewarding personal goal I had accomplished.  Next thing I know Laurel is signed up and ready to walk and raise awareness for me and others who suffer with Multiple Sclerosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system; the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. This means the immune system incorrectly attacks the person’s healthy tissue.

Hanging in there!

MS can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness and more. These problems may be permanent or may come and go.

Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although individuals as young as 2 and as old as 75 have developed it. MS is not considered a fatal disease as the vast majority of people with it live a normal life-span. But they may struggle to live as productively as they desire, often facing increasing limitations.

My case started in my early teens. I began to have bad headaches, unexplained pain, some dizziness that was always diagnosed as an inner ear infection and tingling in my hands and feet.  It seemed that any issue I was having was always brushed off because nothing would last long enough for a doctor to really witness.  Doctors would always tell me that it was probably a virus or a muscle pull.  Finally, at the age of 33 I had a doctor who listened to me and didn’t think I was crazy.  She referred me to a neurologist for the headaches and the numbness, but before I could get into see him I had a slight accident at home.  I had hit my head and had to go to the ER for concussion like symptoms.  They did a CT scan to make sure there wasn’t any bleeding. I was sent home with the results that I did have a concussion and they found a lesion on my brain.  So, needless to say my neurology appointment was moved up to the next day. The neurologist reassured me that it was NOT brain cancer. That I was suffering from migraine headaches and the white lesion could have been there since I was born. The doctor sent me home with a prescription for migraine medicine and told me to follow up with him in 6 months.  Happy to hear that it was just migraines and not brain cancer this busy mom of three young kids was too busy to worry about going back to talk about my headaches.

Now three months later my husband has deployed with the Navy and I am starting to have some issues with numbness in my right leg and my vision was changing.  I had a hard time making things out that were in front of me. This lasted for three days then it was gone. Vision was fine and my leg felt normal.  I had an appointment with my PCP in a couple of weeks so I figured I would talk to her about it then.  Well, she sends me right back to the neurologist.  I explained the symptoms to him and he sends me for a MRI.  The results come back saying that I had 4 new white lesions that were active.  So in those few months I went from 1 to 5 lesions.  He orders a spinal tap, and explains that over 90% of people with MS have oligoclonal bands in their cerebrospinal fluid (CFS). While increased immunoglobulin in the CSF and oligoclonal bands are seen in many other brain and spinal cord conditions, their presence is often useful in helping to establish a diagnosis of MS.  After nine months from the first day I saw the neurologist I was diagnosed with MS.  Unfortunately, there is not a simple test to see if someone has MS.  It’s a combination of your medical history, MRI, and spinal tap.  Some people wait years for a diagnosis.

Since being diagnosed I have had 4 very bad flare-ups, and several small flare-ups.   I have many lesions on my brain (doc stopped counting after 30). I have been on 4 different disease-modifying drugs.  The first three were in shot form that I would have to give to myself.  These drugs are not a cure for the disease!  If they are successful, these drugs could slow down the progression of the disease by as much as 33%.  Example, if you have an average of three MS flare ups in a year and the medicine works for you, it could decrease your flare ups to only two.  I am now on a new medicine that is in pill form, thank goodness, and on average can slow the disease by 51%!

Individuals that wore beige shirts walked, but don’t have MS.

Just twenty years ago these disease-modifying drugs didn’t exist.  Doctors could only treat the symptoms caused by MS.  Now there are ten disease-modifying drugs on the market. Five of those ten are new to the market in the past 7 years.

After 10 years I thank God everyday that I am still walking.  I can’t walk the 50 mile walk, but I am walking!

I will never be able to thank you enough, Laurel, for raising awareness for my cause.  You are the definition of a forever friend!!  Oh, after your feet are feeling better and your toenails grow back, the pedicures are on me!!  I love you, Laurel!!!

Jen Mason

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