By STACY FUNK
Your Voice Contributor
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, happens to families, not just individuals. It is a chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms. No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can fluctuate over time. MS symptoms can range from extreme fatigue to imbalance, lack of coordination, eyesight problems, cognitive issues and more. In advanced cases this results in immobility, blindness and depression.
Due to the unpredictability of MS, living a “regular life” can be extremely difficult for those with the disease. When a person is diagnosed with MS there is an immediate impact on the people who love him or her. Family members and those with the disease experience similar emotions – fear, guilt, anger, denial, grief and anxiety. The emotional and financial impact of MS can be devastating.
As Chapter President of the Kentucky-Southeast Indiana Chapter of the National MS Society, I have been profoundly affected by the families I have met. I have seen families join together and support each other in ways that are truly inspiring. Every day I am in awe of the sacrifices that are made to keep MS families together. Our chapter builds partnerships with our clients, and as a unified organization we have created a massive network of individuals who are able to assist those affected.
The National MS Society helps families navigate through the challenges of living with MS, providing a personalized response to each individual’s unique needs. We are here to make life easier, and to be a partner for families living with this disease. We offer an extensive variety of programs, services and resources for families.
NOW (No Opportunity Wasted), we stand together to raise funds to fuel MS research. We are a driving force for research and treatment to stop disease progression, restore function and end MS forever. We have committed to raise $250 million by the end of 2015, and it will take each and every one of us to make sure we reach this goal.
You can be a part of this MS research revolution by joining my friends, fifteen-year-old Tom Rock and his family, in their fight to “Rock Out MS.” Tom’s mother was diagnosed with MS in 2004. Because of her disease, she is no longer able to do many things, so her children have taken on more responsibility. Tom participated in the chapter’s Advocacy Day in Frankfort, where he learned about the different effects the disease has on people. This eye-opening experience motivated him to raise $1,000 for each year his mother has lived with MS, totaling $8,000. Tom told me that we need to make his mom’s disease as important for us to cure as cancer. You can visit www.walkmsky.org to donate to Tom Rock’s team, “Rock Out MS,” and become a research champion.
Another family I have come to care deeply about is the Unruh family. This family plays a vital role in our goal to raise critical funds for MS research. Jeannie Unruh, who has MS, has served the chapter for more than 20 years in a variety of ways – as a peer supporter for newly diagnosed individuals, a Board Member and a crucial volunteer. Jeannie, her husband, Vic and daughter, Maria, created the Crystal Boots & Silver Spurs gala. The event, which benefits MS research, has exceeded expectations year after year. Jeannie and her family continue to leave their legacy every day in our mission to create a world free of MS. We are truly grateful for this family’s dedication, and look forward to the Third Annual Crystal Boots and Silver Spurs, coming up September 22. Tickets are available at www.crystalboots.com.
Families like the Rocks and the Unruhs have touched me deeply and have changed my perspective on life. And there are so many more families, and so many more stories. I now have a much stronger appreciation for health, I value my relationships differently and I truly live each day to the fullest. I have fallen in love with the families, the work and the volunteers of the National MS Society.
But my journey will not be complete until a cure is found.
Won’t you join me in creating a world free of MS? The need is tremendous, and the time to act is now. Those with MS have suffered long enough.
Stacy Funk began her 25-year career in non-profit work upon graduation from Stephen’s College in 1984, and never looked back. She became involved with the National MS Society in the spring of 2009. Stacy and the MS Society invite you to make a difference NOW and join them at the Best of Louisville Bash, Thursday, July 26. Visit www.BestOfLousvilleBash.com for details. To learn more about the National MS Society, contact an MS Navigator at 1.800.344.4867.