Tonetta Harris was at work as a 911 dispatcher for the California Highway Patrol when all of a sudden things went black in her right eye. “I’m going blind,” she thought, “I’m only 26 and I can’t be going blind.” Within minutes, the vision in her right eye returned. She pressed her fingers to her temples, willing the pain in her eye to go away.
She now knows that she had optic neuritis, a hallmark symptom of multiple sclerosis, and describes the next six months of her life as a “mystery” that included visits to several specialists before her neurologist diagnosed her with MS on April 18, 2006.
That spring, Tonetta was at a restaurant with a friend when she spotted someone wearing a Walk MS t-shirt. She remembers, “I spoke to them for awhile, and promised myself I would do Walk MS every year.”
Tonetta’s kept that promise, and since then her team – Toni Tone –has grown to a high of 122 participants (this year), including virtual walkers. She admits, “I’ve only put a Walk MS team together, I can’t imagine what it would be like to organize Walk MS, or Challenge Walk. The people at my chapter are truly dedicated – it’s not just their job, it’s their passion.”
Tonetta’s done the MS Challenge Walk (“Toe-Knee Tone”) for two years, and says, “At the event, it’s amazing to see all the people. Maybe they only know one person with MS. You see strangers coming together for a common cause, and meet people who become your friends forever.”
She’s made another promise: “On the tenth anniversary year of my diagnosis – 2016 – I will do Walk MS, Challenge Walk, and Bike MS,” and sends a thank you to that one person wearing the Walk MS t-shirt who made such a difference in her life. If you’re at Walk MS, or Challenge Walk, make sure you say hello to Tonetta. For her, it’s the connections that make all the difference.