April 20, 2003
By DEINA ZARTMAN, Standard-Times correspondent
They came together to march side by side for one of their own.
On April 6, 305 walkers participated in the 14th annual Multiple Sclerosis Walk, raising $45,000 for MS research. The nine-mile walk began and ended at the Westport Elementary School.
About 25 walkers were friends and family of 28-year-old Stacy Mello of New Bedford, who was diagnosed with MS six years ago. The group, sponsored by Dr. Frederic Schwartz, raised $4,500.
Miss Mello was diagnosed in December 1997 and has been on medication ever since. "I take it every other day for life," she said matter-of-factly. "Overall, I'm in remission.
"I do sleep more than a normal person," she said. "I am tired -- that's probably the worst thing."
Despite tiring easily, Miss Mello has participated in the last four walks for MS.
At first, the team consisted of her family -- parents, grandparents and cousins. "They do all the volunteer work. They started (the team)," Miss Mello said.
Over the years, the team grew to include five close girlfriends and their boyfriends as well as Miss Mello's fiance and his family.
"It'll be two years in May (that) he proposed," Miss Mello said. "I told him about my illness and he accepted me for it, and since then he's gotten involved."
Dr. Schwartz and his son plan to participate in a MS bike-athon in May. To register for any of the MS fund-raisers or to make a donation, visit www.msnewengland.org
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Web site, www.nmss.org,
MS is "a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous
system." Its symptoms "may include tingling, numbness, painful sensations,
slurred speech and blurred or double vision."
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