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More MS news articles for December 2002

Meeting the challenge

Cotuit woman honored as 'MS Mother of the Year'

December 11, 2002
By Sean Gonsalves
Staff Writer

As if single motherhood wasn't tough enough, Stacey Schakel's 12-year-old son, J.T., was born with spina bifida.

Then, four years ago, Schakel, the school nurse at East Falmouth Elementary School since 1994, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Despite her mounting health problems and the disabilities her son's birth defect presents, Schakel continues to meet the challenges posed by her job, transforming obstacles into an opportunity to educate and inspire.

That's why the Cotuit woman was honored last night at the Dan'l Webster Inn in Sandwich by the Central New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as "MS Mother of the Year" for 2002.

Schakel said that her and her son's condition have provided the opportunity to educate the public about coping with chronic illness.

"As a parent of a child with a disability in a public school system, working in a public school system, I am able to see both sides of the picture," she said last night as about three dozen guests and friends took their seats before the 5:30 p.m. award ceremony. The guests included a legislative aide from state Rep. Matthew Patrick's office and Barnstable Town Council president Gary Blazis.

"I've been able to use my knowledge as a parent and professionally, and as a disabled member of society, on how to just get through life and meet the needs in the educational setting and do it appropriately," Schakel said.

Acknowledging the challenges, she said: "I won't say there aren't days that are more difficult than others but with the support and understanding of family, friends and co-workers I'm able to do it."

The MS Mom of the Year award has been presented annually for the past 10 years, said Linda Guiod, vice president of chapter programming with the Central New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

"What it represents is the recognition that there are women, and men, out there who have struggles that they need to manage every day," Guiod said. "Being a good parent is difficult enough even without a chronic illness to deal with. People who have MS have an added challenge and we are so inspired by people who meet these challenges. Stacey represents that.

"Stacey has had lots of obstacles to overcome ... and she just goes on, and contributes, and works, and she supports her community, and realizes that life goes on."

Copyright © 2002 Cape Cod Times