Two Royal Ladies Bring Awareness to the MS Movement
Lacey Kraft, Mrs. Montana 2009
Using Her Crown to Bring Awareness to MS
Born and raised in central Montana and now living in Roundup, MT, Lacey Kraft was living the American dream with her husband, Josh. Together they enjoyed the outdoor life offered by many of the national parks near them. Life could not have been more perfect until Lacey began to experience unusual tingling in her left finger tips which slowly crept up her arm during her second pregnancy.
Following a visit to her general practitioner, Lacey was referred to a neurologist and underwent an MRI while eight months pregnant. The scan revealed several lesions on her brain, telltale signs of multiple sclerosis. “I was 28 when I was diagnosed. No one in my family had this disease or had even heard of this chronic illness. I initially thought it was a life sentence.”
“I was terrified my husband would have to take care of my daily needs, on top of those of our young children. My daughter was just born and her older brother was only three when I was diagnosed.”
Lacey read as much as she could about MS, but she worried about her future. She reached out to the All America Chapter of the Society in Billings and began to connect with other people living with the disease. She came to understand that there was no set course to MS.
“After learning about MS, I realized that it is different for every person. You can chart your own course by working with your doctors and living a healthy lifestyle, which, I think, helps control your outcome.” After some initial difficulties, Lacey and her physician found a disease-modifying drug that effectively seems to keep her symptom free. Even the tingles on her left side eventually went away.
Then several years ago, Lacey saw an advertisement in the Billings Gazette for the Mrs. Montana America competition. On a whim, she entered and placed fourth runner-up. Having found the pageant experience great fun, Lacey tried again and four years later was crowned Mrs. Montana America 2009. As Mrs. Montana America 2009, Lacey has had the opportunity to appear at more than 100 public and media events statewide this year using her celebrity as a means to generate awareness of multiple sclerosis. Further, she will represent the state of Montana at the National Mrs. America contest taking place in Tucson, AZ on September 8, 2009.
“When I am not carrying out my responsibilities as Mrs. Montana America, I am a stay-at-home mom, which keeps me active and running after my kids. If I get tired, I just try to balance my illness with the everyday demands of my life a little better. ”
In fact, Lacey and Josh include their children, Bella (6) and Ely (9), in their efforts to raise awareness about living with MS.
Lacey and the kids volunteer at rest stops and cheer Josh on when he rides in Montana’s Bike MS event. Together, they also participate in Walk MS and other local chapter events. Lacey is now a peer counselor helping others who are newly diagnosed move forward with their lives.
“MS is not my ‘scarlet letter.’ I tell people about my illness not because I want their concern, but because I want them to realize that you can have a chronic illness and an active lifestyle. I can’t wait to share my story with the great people of Montana and nationally at the upcoming Mrs. America pageant.”
Mary Moulds, Mrs. NJ International
It’s Not the Crown But What You Do with It That Counts
In the fall of 2001, Mary Moulds was a newlywed, just starting her married life with husband, Jack, in Hamilton, NJ. One warm weekend, they escaped to the Poconos in Pennsylvania for a getaway with Mary’s parents and other extended family where they ended up sharing the cabin’s lumpy pull-out couch. That old couch got the lion’s share of blame when Mary awoke to a weird, tingling, numb sensation in her arm.
When the tingling and numbness persisted, Mary’s physician asked her to come in for a quick check up, thinking she might have a pinched nerve or even have contracted Lyme disease while in the Poconos. However, several days later, after blood work and two MRIs, her neurologists confirmed that her symptoms were attributable to the telltale white lesions on her brain associated with multiple sclerosis.
“I was only 29 years old and newly married. I knew nothing about MS. I was scared to tell my parents and worried that my condition would rapidly deteriorate.”
Jack and Mary began to research her condition. “Jack has been my rock since the beginning. We look at the positives and live for each and every day.”
In January 2002, Mary began a treatment regimen, which included a disease-modifying medication in combination with a steroid. Regrettably, the steroids had the unfortunate side effect of causing her weight to balloon by 120 lbs, which took a toll on Mary’s confidence. When both her parents passed away in 2004, her self-esteem dropped to its rock bottom. It was then that she took a long look at her life and decided to make a change.
After speaking with her physicians, she went off steroids and underwent gastric bypass surgery. Although a potentially risky surgery, Mary felt she needed to be bold and take control of her life. Over the next three years, Mary lost 190 pounds.
During this time, Mary increased her volunteer efforts with the New Jersey Metro Chapter. Her “Friends of Mary” WalkMS team, which now includes more than 100 people, has raised over $50,000. She also became a peer counselor and mentor for the newly diagnosed, which she considers “my most important work.”
Brimming with new self esteem because both her weight and MS were under control, Mary was inspired to enter the Mrs. New Jersey (NJ) United States pageant. “I wanted to prove to myself that I was comfortable in my own skin. Entering such a pageant gave me great self-confidence and provided a platform for me to raise awareness of MS. It was a terrific opportunity and I had a blast!”
In 2008, Mary was the first-runner up at the Mrs. NJ United States pageant. Then she learned of the Mrs. NJ International pageant, which seemed to focus even more on a candidate’s interview skills and platform positions. Mary saw this as a new opportunity to publicize MS awareness and in 2009 she won Mrs. NJ International, a title she will hold until Oct. 2009.
As Mrs. NJ International, Mary has made appearances all across New Jersey. She inspires audiences with her determination to live her life fully. “My life is not about limitations: It’s about possibilities. I will not let MS get the best of me and I’m going to live my life.”