Information about MS helps out families
Monday, April 16,
By Stephanie Eddy
The Idaho Statesman
Joyce Knox was 43 in the early 1980s when she noticed an unusual tingling sensation in her legs after returning from a short, afternoon walk. A few months later, she experienced temporary blindness in one eye, then in the other.
She was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Joyce made a point of explaining to both her daughters everything she knew about her disease and tried to answer any questions they had.
Her daughter, Hallie Knox, was 11 at the time.
"Initially, I didn't have any comprehension of what it was, I'd never heard of it before," Hallie said. "It was kind of scary. All of the sudden you have your mortality brought straight to you. She's (mom) always been very upfront with anything involving the disease. She's usually had most of my questions answered before I had an opportunity to take them up."
For family members and friends who know someone with a serious illness, it is not always comfortable to ask about a condition they don't understand.
This week the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Idaho Division will hold a workshop, "Since You Asked," designed specifically for families who have a loved one diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The workshop is aimed at children 6 to 18 years old. Children can direct questions to a panel of professionals who treat MS, individuals who have MS and family members of someone with MS.
Joyce and Hallie are among those who have volunteered to sit on the panel.
"Anything like this is always educational for people, and if nothing else, I might even learn something new from it as well. I may have questions asked of me that I have not yet considered," Hallie said.
"It's only been in the last few years that I've heard other people say anything about MS. When I was in junior high and high school, I didn't hear or read about it. There is a better awareness now than there was earlier."
To encourage children to ask questions, they will role-play as reporters, coached by Idaho Statesman reporter Liz Wyatt. They also are given details of a contest to submit an article or drawing, "What MS Means to My Family," for the Idaho division's quarterly newsletter.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system causing a variety of symptoms including numbness, blurred vision, muscle weakness, poor balance and muscle tightness or spasticity. The progress, symptoms and severity of the disease in any one person is unpredictable. A definitive diagnosis can take several months or even years. It is not a fatal disease.
Joyce is now 61. She considers herself fortunate that her MS did not really affect her for the first 10 years after the diagnosis.
Three years ago, she joined a special Aquatic Exercise Program at the West Family YMCA. The instructors are specially trained to work with people who have MS. Students of all ability levels participate in the classes, which include exercises for maintaining muscle tone, strength, balance and flexibility using water resistance and flotation devices.
"Generally, the people in the class have a good attitude. It helps me with my balance, which is a problem, and if I take a fall, I seem to recover better and am less likely to have pulled muscles or a major injury," Joyce said.
"We have discussions about everything including the latest restaurant in town. It's an upbeat experience socially and mentally."