By: Jetty Hartsky, National MS Society Connecticut Chapter Intern
DANBURY, Conn. – With modern day treatments, life with MS can be about truly living, not simply surviving.
Redding resident Elizabeth Massa, 53, wasn’t surprised the day that she was diagnosed with MS.
“I kind of already knew. My mother had MS, her aunt had it and it’s something I’ve dealt with my all my life,” said Massa. “I’ve always had issues with heat, dizziness and fatigue, which are symptoms common to multiple sclerosis.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Massa, battle the effects of multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease that affects the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure. Symptoms can include numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech, stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
Liz’s excruciating fatigue forced her to resign from her job as an instructor at a local university learning center. However, MS hasn’t kept her from doing her part to help support the fight against MS.
In her honor, Massa’s husband, Stephen, and their daughter, Catherine, organized a Walk MS team, calling it Dizzy Mrs. Lizzie because of her lifelong love of The Beatles and the ongoing dizziness she experiences as a result of her MS.
On Sunday, April 6, Liz and team Dizzy Mrs. Lizzie will be stepping out to both raise awareness and funds, hoping with every step that science moves closer to a cure.
Funds raised by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, through events, such as Walk MS, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure, and provide vital programs and services offered by the chapter.
“I’m doing this not just for myself but for my mother and my aunt,” said Massa. “Science has come a long way since they were first diagnosed. Back then, there were no treatments to slow the progression of MS. Patients were simply advised to rest and avoid stress and physical exertion. Today, there are many treatments and we’ve discovered that exercise can actually help with the effects of MS.”
Traditional medical advice as documented in “Multiple Sclerosis: the History of the Disease” suggested, “Commonsense measures such as rest and avoidance of exertion were better than medication.”
“For years I thought having MS meant being confined to a bed,” shared Massa, whose mother first began having symptoms when she was just three years old. “Growing up, I just took it for granted that my mom, who had not yet been diagnosed, and aunt couldn’t do certain things. I’m so grateful to be able to reap some of the benefits of modern science.”
This year, team Dizzy Mrs. Lizzie will step out at Western Connecticut State University’s Westside Campus for the 2014 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, on Sunday, April 6. Check-in opens at 10 a.m. in the student union and walkers will step out at 11 a.m.
The 2013 Walk MS attracted more than 10,000 participants statewide. The National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, hopes to raise $1.3 million this year. Over 250 participants took to the pavement in Danbury last year. Together, they raised more than $19,000. This year, the Danbury planning committee hopes to raise $25,000.
At this year’s event, participants will enjoy lunch provided by Coca Cola and Subway. The Danbury site will feature a yoga stretch and activities for kids that includes face painting and crafts. Team photos, music and other vendors are also in the works.
The 2014 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, will be held Saturday, April 5, in Madison and Westport, and Sunday, April 6, in Cheshire, Danbury, East Hartford, Enfield, Litchfield, Simsbury, Stamford, Waterford, West Hartford and West Haven.
Walk MS community partners include News 8, WUVN/WHTX Univision and WUTH Telefutura and Clear Channel Radio Connecticut, which includes The River 105.9, Country 92.5, KISS 95.7, ESPN 1410 AM, KC 101.3, 960 WELI, and ESPN 1300 AM, 95.9 The FOX, WCTY 97.7 and La Puertorriqueñisima 1120 AM.
“Concern for my daughter plays into my involvement with the walk, I don’t want there to be a fourth generation of MS in our family, but if there is, I want there to be a cure,” said Massa.
For more information on the 2014 Walk MS, presented by Travelers, to donate to Team Dizzy Mrs. Lizzie or to register for Walk MS, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.