Meet Walk MS Twin Cities Ambassador Janet Olson, diagnosed December 2002
Janet Olson, this year’s Walk MS Twin Cities Ambassador, will be participating in her 11th Walk MS event in 2013. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, Janet says the disease has helped her develop a new perspective on life, and she’s committed to raising critical awareness and funds to help create a world free of MS. In fact, Janet’s Walk MS team, the J Walkers, has raised nearly $100,000 since 2003.
In what way has MS made the biggest impact on your life?
It has made me want to live each day to the fullest, as I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. It’s helped me to develop a better attitude towards life and to not “sweat the small stuff.” I’m thankful for every moment I have with my kids and my husband.
Why did you decide to participate in Walk MS?
MS is a very unpredictable disease, which as a person living with it, makes me feel helpless much of the time. Participating in Walk MS makes me feel like I am actively fighting this disease and doing something to help find a cure. It gives me a sense of power and control over my MS.
What’s your favorite thing about Walk MS?
I love being surrounded by thousands of people who share the same goal as me: to stop the effects of MS. The day is filled with positive attitudes, love and support — one of the best days of the year for me.
How many years have you participated in the event?
The 2013 Walk MS will be my 11th year at the event. My team, The J Walkers, has participated since 2003, and together over the years, we’ve raised nearly $100,000.
What is one thing you wish people could understand about MS?
MS is largely a disease that is unseen and because MS affects the nervous system, so many of the symptoms are not visible. Even though the person suffering from them could be dealing with many issues such as impaired vision, numbness, tingling, etc. You never know who around you may be dealing with the effects of MS.
What is the most important, meaningful or memorable connection you have made since being diagnosed with MS or having someone close to you diagnosed?
My husband, Jeff, has always been a wonderful partner, but my diagnosis has really shown me what a special person he is. He’s so supportive — always willing to do anything I need, extremely understanding during my mood swings, and there for me in any way I need him. MS isn’t something he signed up for in life either, but it has certainly brought us closer together and has shown what a terrific partner he is. I know how lucky I am to have him.
What makes you a great walk ambassador?
I’ve always been open about my diagnosis and have been approached by many friends for guidance and comfort as they’ve come to have friends and family members diagnosed with MS. I’m always willing to share my story with others and help with what knowledge I have about the disease. I’ve also strongly encouraged those newly diagnosed to reach out to the National MS Society for additional support. After my diagnosis, I was surprised to learn how many people I know who had someone in their lives touched by MS.
What makes your story with MS unique?
Every person’s story with MS is unique, as it presents itself differently in each person, and is so unpredictable. I’m simply happy to share my story and hope that it helps educate people about the disease. Because I’ve had a fairly mild course with the disease, I particularly love speaking with the newly diagnosed, as I think it’s helpful for them to see that 11 years later, my quality of life has not been greatly affected by MS. I know from personal experience that the unknown is one of the scariest things upon hearing that initial diagnosis, and the mind tends to focus on worst case scenarios. People need to see that MS doesn’t mean life as they know it is over.
Janet may be reached for interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org. To speak with a National MS Society, Upper Midwest Chapter spokesperson, please contact Anna at 612-335-7918 or email@example.com.
Walk MS 2013
Join Janet and thousands of others by getting involved in Walk MS. To learn more, register or donate, visit myMSwalk.org.