Nan Luke began practicing law in 1984. She was in her 20’s and just "coming into her own" as a litigator when, from the bottom of her foot to the middle of her face, her left side went completely numb. She was often tired and became more clumsy than usual, constantly tripping when walking. “The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis came quickly after my first visit to a neurologist; he ordered an MRI and spinal tap,” recalls Nan.
“'Denial isn’t just a river’ they say, and I ignored the disease… I never told anyone I had MS,” admits Nan. By age 30, Nan was a hard-charging civil litigator with a respected southern California firm known for aggressive defense and trial work on profession medical malpractice, business and aviation matters.
It was not until 1997 that injury and symptoms forced Nan to rethink her career-driven mentality and begin treatment for her MS. “I discovered my local chapter of the National MS Society when I became open about having MS. Others, even other lawyers with MS, came to me for advice. I attended a newly diagnosed group and was impressed with the caliber of the program, the facilitators and my fellow attendees living with MS.”
Nan soon joined the chapter’s Board of Trustees. She is passionate about advocacy and agreed to chair the local Government Relations Committee (GRC). Nan shares, “The key to advocacy is calmness and credibility. It is about building relationships with those who make policies which impact those who have or are impacted with MS. The Society has built a solid, positive reputation in national, state and local arenas through the dedicated and consistent teamwork of Society-connected professionals, staff members and the host of volunteers and patient advocates.”
Nan attends many of the chapter's fundraising events as a Champion, sharing her story with participants to expand their understanding of MS. “When I participate in an event hosted by the Society, two things stand out to me. First, it is a joyous first class, polished, professional event. Second, I experience and know on a deep, deep level, that I am not a victim or passive person with a disease. No, I am part of the solution. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for joining us.”
“Thanks to research and a great medical team, I continue treatment today and it is helping to slow the progress of this disease,” says Nan. “But I do not have the energy I once had and the feeling in my left side never really returned.” Over the years, Nan has experienced optic neuritis a few times and has had “other invisible symptoms.” Her “vices” are now “walking my dog and reading books.”
Today, Nan lives in beautiful Laguna Beach and continues to practice law. Because of the many challenges faced when with living with MS, Nan has incorporated handling disability matters into her own practice.
Written by volunteer Leslie Christofferson
Though the cause of multiple sclerosis is not known, it is a disease of the central nervous system typically diagnosed in the prime-of-life years, ages 20-50. At least two to three times more women than men are living with MS, the most common neurological disease leading to disability in young adults. To learn more about MS, Nan, chapter programs and services, fundraising events, sponsorship/underwriting chapter activities, or to donate, email stories@MSpacific.org, visit www.MSpacific.org or call 1-800-486-6762.