facing challenge with courage

Yesterday family and friends gathered at Husky Stadium, near the UW Seattle campus to participate in the MS Walk.  This is a 4 mile walk from the stadium to Gasworks Park (and back), to raise money for the MS Society.

Here’s a photo of our team, the Northlake Network for MS :

Of course there are some good reasons we’re all out there on a chilly spring northwest morning.  A year and a half ago, after experiencing numbness in her feet and issues with her balance, my mother was diagnosed with MS.  Late last year, my uncle was also diagnosed. 

We knew little about MS then, and only a little bit more now.  It can be difficult to diagnose definitively – sometimes people will experience symptoms for years before ‘really’ knowing.  This was our family’s experience.  I should ask my mom whether the diagnosis made her feel better or worse.  I’m not sure how I would feel.

MS is progressive, incurable (sometimes managable with treatment).  It is an autoimmune response in which the body attacks the myelin sheathing around the nerves.  Without myelin, the nerves cannot properly conduct the necessary signal – as an electrical cord would. The literature I’ve read says that there is no verified genetic link, although statistically  speaking there is a higher incidence within families.  Finally, the Pacific Northwest seems to have a higher incidence than just about any other place on earth.  Whether this is due to environmental factors, genetics, or unlikely coincidence is unclear.

There are many physical symptoms.  MS can also affect memory.  And as with any serious condition, people will process the emotional components differently.  It is a difficult disease to battle all around.

And this is one of the many reasons my mom is one of my heroes.  She’s faced MS with the same grace and courage she’s always had.  When you’re young, your parents seem infallable.  As you grow, you recognize them as real human beings, with flaws and fears of their own.  And through that process you come to realize the ways in which you’ll always look up to them.

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