I was 28 when I first started having multiple sclerosis symptoms. Five years later, in 1993, I had a severe exacerbation. I was diagnosed with MS and began using a wheelchair. My kids were only 11, 9 and 5 at the time. I still get choked up when I think about the day I realized I was going to have to raise my children from a wheelchair.
Some people told me I might want to join the National MS Society, but I had a total misconception of what it was. I thought it was just people who sat around and complained about their disease. But then my husband, Mike, rode in BP MS 150, which is the Houston version of Bike MS. He said it was so much fun, and that it seemed like something I would like to get involved in. So the next year I went down to the BP MS 150 finish line as a spectator with Mike, and I was completely overcome with emotion. I was really humbled that all of these people were working so hard for something that was so personal to me. I felt really foolish that I had all those misconceptions about the Society.
So I became involved in BP MS 150 right away. I like public speaking, so I do a lot of media publicity for it, and Mike rides with the Houston Hammerheads team. We both raise money. In the last eight years, we have personally raised more than $120,000. We’re really proud of that—last year we made the BP MS 150 Fundraising Hall of Fame.
I’m also a member of the Society’s Houston Leadership Council. I speak to people about research initiatives like the NOW Campaign. I’ll talk to anybody who will listen about MS research, whether it’s one person or 500. I’ve gone to high schools and corporations.
I’ve done radio plugs and TV interviews. My goal is to educate people because when they know about MS, they’re more inclined to open their hearts. And when they open their hearts, they’re more willing to open their wallets.
One thing I like about the NOW Campaign is that it helps people like me who live with a progressive form of MS. Before, it felt like all the research money was going to help those with relapsing disease, and there was very little focus on combatting progression by restoring myelin and nerve function. But I believe a cure is actually a three-way street: stopping the progression of the disease, restoring lost function, and preventing the disease from happening in the first place.
It’s exciting to live in this time because I think we will soon see some major breakthroughs in MS research. There’s hope on the horizon, and that in itself is huge. It’s exciting to know that my kids might not have to deal with the possibility of developing MS. And it’s exciting to think that I could possibly be dancing at my granddaughter’s wedding.
I missed doing that with my son at his wedding. When I was diagnosed with MS, there was nothing to treat my symptoms. And now there are 12 different medications. That means a mom with young children who’s diagnosed today will most likely have a totally different disease course than I’ve had. It’s exciting to know that because of all of the money that’s been raised for research, that mom has real hope for a cure.