Walking Toward a Future Free of Multiple Sclerosis

The day of our local National Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk finally arrived and Jim and I were pleased to wake up to a gorgeous spring morning. The two of us raised $1,445 and for that we thank our generous supporters. 

The crowd seemed a bit larger than in previous years and we were surprised when the society acknowledged those present who raised more than $500. I was one of three. One woman wasn't available, so the it fell to a fellow MSer and me to lead off the walk to the sounds of the olympic theme. 

Jim was right with me, knowing that it wouldn't be long before I would fall behind. Indeed, it was less than 30 seconds before my pace was overtaken, but luckily it wasn't a race. I haven't been using my cane these last few weeks, but experience told me that 3-5 miles would feel more like 50, so I took my trusty fold-up cane along. 

Rather than going through town this year, the MS Walk trail was an actual trail through a very woodsy park. It was beautiful and it felt great to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. Early on we spotted one person with a walker, but we didn't see any other canes or wheelchairs this year.

Following the posted arrows, we turned on to a dirt path strewn with rocks and tree roots jutting up from the soft ground, forcing me to watch my feet as I walked. Aware of my unbalanced and uncoordinated appearance, I clutched Jim with my left hand and allowed my right arm to flail about wildly on to the other side, as it often does when my balance is threatened. Woe to the person hoping to pass me on the right.

I really wasn't terribly concerned about my appearance on this particular day, this being an MS Walk and all. I considered myself to be a living example of MS in action, a single morning in a single life of one MS patient. As fate would have it, I was in far better shape this year than I was for some previous walks.

Still, it took only 15 minutes before I released my folding cane from its harness and put it to use. Good grief -- there's a hill up ahead! Maybe to some people it would be considered nothing more than an incline, but to me it was a hill, the first of several to come, along with patches of mud that made the cane more of a hazard than a help. But I wasn't alone. No matter how far behind we were from the main group of walkers, Jim was there to support me, both emotionally and physically.

Being the loving care partner that he is, he grumbled about the chosen walk route and my obvious difficulties. Then again, I could have chosen the shorter route that the society always marks off for people who have trouble, but I declined. It's important to me that I push the limits of my abilities right now. It's not hard for me to imagine that at some point I'll have to settle for being a virtual walker. When that day arrives, I will know that while I could... I did. I think I did my husband proud.

It took us an hour and 20 minutes to finally reach the finish line -- hot, tired, and thrilled to have done it again. Within 30 minutes of arriving back home, I was powerless to fight the call of a nap and let myself give to sweet slumber.

Although the scenic walk was pleasant, it seems to me that by walking a more public route, we would stand a better chance of raising awareness of this disease and the organization that fights for us. 

The cause is still a mystery and the cure for MS is a long way off. Unfortunately, diagnosis is coming at an earlier age than ever before and pediatric MS is on the rise. This debilitating disease is hard enough to make peace with when you are in midlife -- our hearts go out to those who must face that challenge earlier. THAT's why we help to raise funds for research... THAT's why we work to educate and support others... THAT's why we walk for those who no longer can...  

Cross-posted on the blog MS Maze.

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