Friday, April 18, 2003
By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News
Country singing sensation Clay Walker is known for his high-energy stage shows and lifestyle.
"I am very active," Walker says. "I like to ride horses. I golf. I perform onstage. I am a madman onstage."
But a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in April 1996 could have radically changed Walker's life.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's defense system attacks the protective layer of fatty tissue surrounding nerve fibers, interfering with signals sent by the brain. Symptoms can include slurred speech, numbness, blurred vision and muscle weakness, spasticity or paralysis.
Walker says his first bout with the disease came while playing basketball with some friends.
"I just fell. I was totally just out of balance," he says. "My right leg was giving out. My right hand was tingling. I had a facial spasm and double vision."
After meeting with doctors, Walker was told he had one of three conditions -- vasculitis (an inflammation of a blood or lymph vessel), a virus or multiple sclerosis. Within days, doctors confirmed it was the latter.
With proper medical attention and education, Walker says he has been able to come to terms with the disease.
"My first attack was severe. I recovered from it, and I've been in remission, and I'm staying in remission -- that's my goal.
"One of my concerns was that MS was going to take a lot of things away from me that I love to do. I thought it was going to take away physical activities. It has not."
But Walker says he knows not everyone is so fortunate.
"I've seen people who are very debilitated, in wheelchairs, on crutches," he says. "You know my life has not been as rough as theirs. It's the debilitating part of this disease that bothers me. That's what I would like to see go away."
Walker has become active in the fight to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis as well as funds for research.
"I started the foundation Band Against MS, which is a not-for profit organization. Its main focus and goal is to find a cure for this. I think we can do that in my lifetime. "
Walker says he has a message for others.
"Don't ever for one instant think that this disease can keep you from
chasing your dream, living your dream," he says. "I'm living it; I'm not
chasing it. MS just stands for more success."
© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP