"Everybody knows about breast cancer, and I want everybody to know about MS, too"
Lige remembers the first thought she had in 2005 when she was diagnosed
with Multiple Sclerosis: "I'm going to end up in a wheelchair for the
rest of my life."
nine years later, the Knettishall resident will be walking with her
entire family and about 40 others on her team, Lige Lightning in her
10th MS Walk Towson at Goucher College on April 13.
"For some people, the disease progresses quickly," Lige said. "I have been fortunate to remain stable for the last nine years."
Towson 5k walk benefits the Maryland chapter of theNational Multiple
Sclerosis Society and is one of 11 walks throughout the state held each
spring. This is the second year the event has been held at Goucher;
since it began in 1989, the event had been run at Towson University.
Lige, like most other individuals with MS, didn't know what to do or where to get help when she was first diagnosed.
friend of mine suggested I call the Maryland Chapter of the MS Society,
and when they answered the phone, all I could think to say was, 'My
name is Tricia, and I was just diagnosed with MS.' Immediately, they
transferred me to someone who provided support and enrolled me in a
program where I was receiving small, manageable packets of information
that really helped me understand what was happening to me."
National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines MS as "an unpredictable,
often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the
flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and the
body," most specifically the spinal cord and optic nerves.
think that any major diagnosis can knock someone's world off its axis,"
Lige said. "I felt overwhelmed and scared when I was first diagnosed ...
The society can help answer the questions you don't even know you have
Researchers still do not know what causes MS. It is the
number one disabling disease among young people, affecting more than
10,000 people in Maryland and 2.3 million worldwide. Recently,
researchers have developed better therapies, including 10 new treatments
that have been approved to stop the damage and progression of
Since her diagnosis, Lige has had to take daily
injections of Copaxone. With the new treatments that are now available,
she is considering a switch to one of the new oral medications.
"It is a big decision to consider changing medications, as the side effects can be pretty strong," Lige said.
year's ambassador of the Towson MS Walk is Jennifer Cooper, of
Baltimore, who was diagnosed in 2005 when she was 18. Like Lige, Cooper
had no idea what MS was or how her life might change.
"I was nonchalant about it," Cooper said. "I was stubborn and didn't take anything for about a year and a half."
started taking Copaxone in 2007, and in 2009 when Cooper had a relapse,
she switched to one of the new medications being offered, Tysabri,
which she continues to receive through monthly infusion treatments.
Lige and Cooper have been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, the
most common form that affects about 85 percent of the MS population.
sees her role as ambassador serving two very important purposes: to
educate others about MS and to instill positivity and courage among
those who have the disease.
"Last year, I got a little frustrated
because I would tell people about having MS and they didn't know what
it was. I got so frustrated that I created a Facebook page," Cooper
Cooper's page, "I Give A DAM (Determination, Awareness,
MS)," currently has 390 subscribers and is filled with encouragement and
"If you ... have a negative outlook, you are going to
have a horrible life," Cooper said. "I went through those tough times
where I was depressed and in denial — and those were the worst times of
"That's when everything went downhill. I decided that
you need to see the good in everything. That's when you get a better
outlook about your own life and everything around you."
ambassador, Cooper will give a short speech at the beginning of the
race, cut the ribbon to begin the event and meet with individuals for
pictures and encouragement.
"Everybody knows about breast cancer,
and I want everybody to know about MS, too. So many people, when they
hear you have MS, they say, 'What's that?' That's why everybody needs to
join us. I would not have the quality of life if it wasn't for walks
like this," Cooper said.
Barbara Shelton, of Towson, has been
participating in the Towson MS walk for the last 12 years. She has
served on the planning committee and as a team leader for several
groups. She has family members and friends with MS, and walking in the
annual event is her way of showing support and spreading awareness about
"I think that many people view MS as an obvious
disease that they can see, that everyone who has MS is in a wheelchair
and has difficulty living an independent life. The truth is nothing like
that," Shelton said.
Shelton said most of the people she knows with MS work full time and live full, productive lives.
have significant challenges and live with the knowledge that the
disease can suddenly become more difficult to deal with at any time,"
Shelton said, "but you can't see the impact the disease has upon them.
People don't often understand the unseen physical challenges that MS
So far, the Towson event has raised over half of the
intended goal of $160,000, which is more than $10,000 over last year's
final amount of nearly $150,000 raised, according to Melissa Ward,
community relations manager of the National MS Society, Maryland
For this year's walk, Lige's Lightning has already
raised nearly $6,000; their goal is to raise $10,000, as they have done
nearly every year since 2009.
"I hope that participants who have
MS will be energized by the support of family and friends," Lige said.
"The disease is unpredictable, and because it's a disease of the central
nervous system, there are many effects it can have on the body. Doing
the MS Walk is one way to have some control over our future because
we're supporting the society's research, advocacy and educational
The walk "is a reminder that we need to be vigilant in
supporting the society so they can fund research to develop new
treatments and reach the ultimate goal: a cure."Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by The Baltimore Sun Note: Materials may be edited for content and length