Moving Beyond Acceptance, Texas Woman is Thankful for Her MS
First there was denial — doctor-shopping in hopes of getting a better diagnosis. Then acceptance. Then, just a few months after her 1996 diagnosis, a tragedy led Lari Ainsworth to be thankful for her MS, an attitude she has held ever since.
Her father, a Baptist preacher, went missing during a fishing trip, and after several agonizing hours, the police found his body. “It was horrific but I found myself just completely at peace,” Ainsworth said. “When my dad died, that was the point where I could finally say, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me MS,’ because having MS and knowing that there are no guarantees for tomorrow helped me deal with my father’s death.”
She harnessed that sense of gratitude by turning herself into a one-woman relief agency, visiting hot spots from New Orleans to Sri Lanka to Africa to deliver supplies and encouragement. On one trip she brought fabric and sewing machines into the mountains of Mexico and taught Indian women to quilt.
“It’s cold in Mexico!” she said. “I didn’t know it snowed there, but the Rocky Mountains go to Mexico.”
The MS community, too, has benefited in a big way from Ainsworth’s energy. Lari’s Angels, her Walk MS team, is a leading fundraiser in Walk MS: Corpus Christi Walk presented by H-E-B, pulling in $52,000 in 2008. Of that, $44,000 was raised by Ainsworth herself.
Ainsworth and her husband David now have a wall full of awards from the Lone Star Chapter. Always thinking of others, she says she hopes her success doesn’t discourage newer teams.
“I guess people are a little intimidated by our fundraising. They don’t feel their $3,500 is worthy. I try to squelch those feelings rather quickly,” she said. “We would be fundraising whether we got an award or a t-shirt or not. Everyone should feel that any award is worthy. That last dollar may make the difference in finding a cure.”
As a former elementary-school principal with a degree in counseling, Ainsworth relishes talking about MS with newly diagnosed people, tugging them back from the edge of depression.
“They become so hopeless. I can’t live that way,” she said. “I can encourage other people who have this disease, or know someone who does, that life is not over just because you have MS.”
The fact that David, who owns a trucking company, is well connected in the oilfield business certainly helps with fundraising. His first few fundraising letters were sob stories about the love of his life being stricken with a horrible illness, and they worked, but Ainsworth wanted a more upbeat tone, so she began ghostwriting for him. “I fill them in with what’s been going on, kind of like those Christmas letters you get at the end of the year,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be, Woe is me.”
There is one person with whom Ainsworth rarely discusses MS: David. She thinks the subject is too frustrating for him.
“I think guys in general just want to fix things, and he can’t fix me,” she said. “It know it bothers him, so his way of helping to fix me is raising funds. He’s adamant about finding a cure.”