By LIZ THOMPSON
Suburban News Publications
Every time my legs go numb or I stumble when I walk, I am reminded I have multiple sclerosis.
My body reminds me daily that the messages to my brain are disrupted.
MS is a central nervous system disease with no known cause or cure. Symptoms range from numbness, fatigue, vision loss and pain to the worst-case scenario of paralysis.
March is MS Awareness Month. The estimated 20,000 adult Ohioans and 400,000 Americans do not need a specific month to be aware they have MS. The public does need to understand what a diagnosis of MS can mean to a person and everyone in his or her lives.
The number is growing as one person an hour is diagnosed with MS. Between 8,000-10,000 children younger than 18 have MS.
Ohio is the only state that recognizes the entire month of March for MS Awareness. This is the five-year anniversary of the legislation passed unanimously to recognize the entire month. Thanks to State Rep. Kenny Yuko (D-7th District), also living with MS, who introduced House Bill 379.
On March 22, members from all around Ohio met with legislators at the Statehouse to discuss issues related to people with MS. Planning for the Walk MS on April 16 is in full swing. My team, Thompson’s Trekkers is one of many teams raising funds for the National MS Society.
Fundraising is mandatory to provide resources for people with MS and to support research. Ohio State University and the Cleveland Clinic each received a grant last year for researching MS.
Advocating person by person is an ongoing event.
The word advocate has many synonyms, including supporter, promoter, sponsor, believer, campaigner and activist. When we present ourselves in an honest, positive way in public or in private, we become advocates.
While I move through a store using a provided scooter, for which I am thankful, I realize I need more space than a person with a regular shopping cart. I smile, wait patiently as others move about and say, “Excuse me,” and “Thank you,” when people either need to move or have accommodated me in some way. If someone offers to get something from the shelf for me, I let them!
Many people do not know how to react to someone using a cane, walker or wheelchair. This is true, especially if you “look normal,” and as many with MS have heard, “But you look fine.” We are fine — we just have MS. So I teach and help others understand.
There is more to people with MS than their disease. By sharing, laughing, helping any way we can, moving the best we can and taking care of ourselves so we can do things that make life worth living, we are advocating and raising awareness of MS.
Then people will look past the cane, walker or wheelchair, the slurred speech or wobbly gait, and see the person first. Then we have accomplished true MS awareness and life goes on as it does every year — only better.
For more information about MS or events like the Walk MS, contact the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National MS Society at 800-344-4867 or msohiobuckeye.org.
Liz Thompson is a freelance writer and former SNP reporter who lives in Grove City with her husband, Bob.