All About Multiple Sclerosis

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She'll keep playing, thank you

OSU's Erin Forquer won't give up lacrosse despite having multiple

March 26, 2003 Wednesday
Craig Merz,
The Columbus Dispatch

Erin Forquer admits to being resolute, stubborn even.

Thus, being a goalie on the Ohio State women's lacrosse team fits her personality.

The sophomore dons a mask, helmet and pads and dares anyone to shoot a hard rubber ball past her.

It's the same approach she has taken since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last summer.

"I think being stubborn has helped me," she said. "I never thought that I wouldn't play again."

Multiple sclerosis is a disorder of the central nervous system caused by progressive damage to the outer covering of the nerve cells. It afflicts approximately one out of every 1,000 people in the United States. Women are affected more than men, and the disorder commonly begins between age 20 and 40.

Symptoms include weakness or paralysis in the extremities, fatigue and loss of vision, balance and memory.

Despite administering a shot in her leg at least once a week to combat the onset of the potentially crippling disease, Forquer has started and won the last six games for the 16th-ranked Buckeyes (6-1). She leads the American Lacrosse Conference with a 5.27 goals-against average.

"She's an inspirational person," teammate Kimberly Lowe said. "She has a dynamic personality. She's still the same Erin."

Forquer, 20, started all 16 games for OSU last season and was 12th nationally with an 8.87 goals-against average. But the native of Shaker Heights, Ohio, started losing feeling in her right foot in April.

"I got knocked in the shins so many times I thought it may be from the swelling," she said.

By June, the swelling and weakness had reached the other foot. She went to the Cleveland Clinic for tests in July and was told she had multiple sclerosis.

Forquer is not the only one coming to grips with the disease.

"This is a new thing for everybody, for us (the coaches), the team and the trainers," coach Sue Stimmel said. "It's unlike any other injury we've all been through. If one of my players has knee surgery and is out six months you can say, 'You're young, you're great. Everything is going to be fine.' With experience, you knew she'd be back.

"For the first time, I realize I can't guarantee she'll be back."

Forquer has been able to practice and play with minimal discomfort. Coaches and trainers are careful to watch for fatigue, and her teammates are coping.

"We were really worried about her mentally and physically," Lowe said. "The first thoughts weren't about her playing lacrosse. We wondered about her health and how it would affect her life."

While nearly everyone in the program had to peruse medical books or the Internet to understand multiple sclerosis, Lowe has firsthand knowledge. Her mother's best friend has been afflicted for many years.

"She has been able to function and deal with it," Lowe said. "If there are any good points, I know you can live and cope with it."

A psychology major, Forquer realized she was doing a case study of herself.

"I went through almost all the traditional stages -- denial, acceptance, anticipating how I can make it through this," she said.

There have been physical changes, too. She was given steroids for the first 2 1/2 weeks after being diagnosed. The steroids shut down the immune system to stop cells from inflaming.

Now, she in injects an interferon into her muscle about every five days to modulate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, nor a blanket prognosis. Many people live a near-normal life for years. Most with multiple sclerosis have minimal disability for 20 years or more. Forquer has gender and youth on her side.

"The outlook -- that's very frustrating. There's so much unknown," she said. "I don't know what it will be like in a couple of years."

Stimmel said Forquer has never sought sympathy or special treatment.

"She's doing everything she did last year," Stimmel said. "We hope it is slowly progressing. Until this limits her, why should we limit her?"

That's the way Forquer wants to live. Sure, she's stubborn. But she also is something else.

"I still consider myself ridiculously lucky," she said. "I still have the trainers, coaches, teammates and administration here for me. I feel very lucky."

© Copyright 2003 The Columbus Dispatch