A poet, Kathy Kozlicky has always had a way with words. However, on a cold winter day in 2008, she was rendered speechless when she learned she had multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease.
“Multiple sclerosis alters everything, every day,” said Kozlicky, 41. “Life after a diagnosis of MS is about learning to live in a body that does not always want to cooperate. I wake up every morning thinking if today is not a good day, there is still hope for a better tomorrow.”
Kozlicky was born and raised in Groton. For many years she worked as a leasing agent and as a florist designing arrangements. In 2008, she took a sabbatical to pursue her passion for writing poetry. She published her first book, Confessions: A Collection of Poetry, in May 2008. Just seven months later, in December, she received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
“My vision suddenly became blurred,” said Kozlicky. “In the course of two weeks, I went from having perfect vision to becoming legally blind. My heart sunk when I found out I had MS; I knew nothing about the disease. The only question I could ask was, ‘Am I going to die?’”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Kozlicky, live with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. Symptoms can include, among other things, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness in the limbs, and in extreme cases, complete paralysis. There currently is no cure for multiple sclerosis.
Shocked and unaware of where this disease would take her, Kozlicky took the initiative to learn as much about MS as possible. She conducted research online and worked with her neurologist to learn about treatment options and different ways to manage her symptoms.
Kozlicky found solace in putting pen to paper. She used poetry as an outlet while coming to terms with her diagnosis. Currently, she is working on her second book, which will feature a collection of poems depicting her battle with MS. Her hopes are for her words to help guide others through the dark and uncertain times that come when newly diagnosed.
Ironically, in the spring of 2013, a close friend of Kozlicky's was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since she has been living with MS, this is the first person close to her to also be diagnosed with the disease.
“When she told me she had MS, I knew exactly what she was going through,” said Kozlicky. “I felt as though I was reliving the day I received the news. I understood how shut off she felt and found empowerment in helping educate her about the disease and how she can prepare herself for the winding road ahead. That is when I knew it was time to get out there and join the fight against this chronic illness.”
This April, Kozlicky will participate in her first Walk MS event at Camp Harkness in Waterford. Because of difficulties resulting from MS, she will not be able to walk this year. However, she will be cheering on “Team Kathy” from the sidelines. Her team consists of family, her boyfriend, Mark Buck, friends and co-workers.
“Rain or shine, I’ll be out there on the front line supporting my girlfriend,” said Buck, of Westerly, Rhode Island. “I am walking to raise awareness. Even within the medical field, people need to learn more about this disease and show more compassion to those living with multiple sclerosis.”
The 2014 Walk MS will be held at Hammonasset State Park, in Madison, and Sherwood Island State Park, in Westport, on Saturday, April 5. The walk will be held at 10 other walk sites, including Camp Harkness, on Sunday, April 6.
Sites include Cheshire High School, in Cheshire; Western Connecticut State University, in Danbury; Rentschler Field, in East Hartford; JFK Middle School, in Enfield; the Litchfield Town Green, in Litchfield; Westminster School, in Simsbury; Commons Park at the Harbor Point, in Stamford; Camp Harkness in Waterford; the University of Connecticut, in West Hartford; and West Haven High School, in West Haven.
“I long for the day when a cure is found for this baffling illness,” said Kozlicky. “For now, I will do everything I can to help us get there. Whether it’s through my poetry or through my participating in Walk MS, I want to be part of the fight and the quest to find a cure.”
Funds raised through events like Walk MS ensure ongoing scientific research to find a cure and provide for the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to Connecticut residents affected by multiple sclerosis.
For more information about events like Walk MS, multiple sclerosis, its effects, and programs and services offered by the chapter to those living with MS visit www.ctfightsms.org.