August 13, 2003
The Original Irregular
The life of a person with multiple sclerosis is never easy, as Valerie Oswald can attest. Her sister, Kathy Nelson of Madison, has been afflicted with the debilitating disease since June of 2000. "It's really zapped her energy," said Oswald. "She tires very easily. She also has a lot of aches and pains in her arms and legs."
MS is essentially a disease of the central nervous system affecting nerve cells. As the coating around the nerve cells wears away, the body slowly deteriorates. The disease has confounded doctors for many years, as the rate of progression can vary greatly and it is unknown exactly how the disease is contracted.
In early May, Nelson contacted her sister about a walk for a cure for MS that she had heard about. The 50-mile walk, which will take place on Sept. 13 to 15 from Province Town to Dennis, Mass., at first intimidated Oswald. However, she quickly warmed to the idea of walking in the event with her sister.
"It has become a strong mission for me," she said. She pointed to the approximately 400,000 people in the U.S., and the 2.5 million worldwide, who have the disease, and the need for a cure. "That's a part of the reason I'm willing to do this walk," she said. "The money goes toward research, and they're so close to finding a cure."
Oswald said that she never ceases to be amazed with her sister's positive attitude in the face of the great adversity she has faced throughout her life. Nelson has overcome bone cancer, cervical cancer and the replacement of a kneecap. Now, she refuses to let the ravages of MS keep her from having a normal life.
"I would give anything to have my sister's attitude," said Nelson. "She loves life. That's half of what has allowed her to survive these major illnesses."
Nelson gives herself Interferon shots once a week, which slow down the progression of the illness, and works out regularly. While she is unable to walk on surfaces such as rough mountain trails, her workout regimen and her road walking is sure to pay off during the MS walk. She also has a full-time job. "We've been trying to convince her to take a part-time job because it takes so much out of her," said Oswald.
She said that she has gained a greater appreciation for the physical preparation needed to complete the walk, having done training walks as much as 14 miles in length.
Fundraising is another component of the event. Each of the 1,000 participants is required to raise at least $1,500. "It's amazing the amount of money people collect," said Oswald. "Some people have really large fundraising events that take a lot of planning."
She said that fundraising has been a challenge, requiring more time than she originally thought. "This is the first year I've done this, so live and learn, but if I could turn the clock back I would do networking," she said. She recommended that anyone interested in doing the walk start training and fundraising for it a year in advance.
"Unless they're athletic, and unless they're interested in fundraising, they should start preparing now for next year's walk," said Oswald. She went on to say that people who were not physically able to do the walk could contribute to the fight for a cure by pledging a walker, and those unable to make a financial contribution could provide support for those who were walking.
Anyone interested in helping to find a cure for the disease by pledging
Oswald can contact her at 624-7769 at work or 265-3532 at home. "Every
little bit helps," she emphasized.
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