All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for December 2002

MS sufferers forget disease for awhile

Idlewild celebration provides seasonal distractions

Dec 8th, 2002 10:10 pm
Frank X. Mullen Jr.
Reno Gazette-Journal

On Sunday at Idlewild Park in Reno, adults and children came together in celebration of Christmas and forgot, for just a little while, that all have been touched by multiple sclerosis.

“It’s fun and it lets everybody get away from the MS for a little while,” said Melissa Frow, 14, of Reno. Her mother, Diane, has had the disease for 18 years. Melissa and other family members help her with daily tasks.

“My mom can’t walk that well, so we help her. The most important thing is that MS patients shouldn’t be treated like invalids. They can do a lot for themselves and when they can’t, you help.”

Sunday’s event was sponsored by the Great Basin Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Outback Steakhouse on South Virginia Street provided 150 barbecue dinners at no charge and local merchants donated presents.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 24 sang Christmas carols, Santa Claus visited with guests, and volunteers helped when needed.

“It’s a cool event,” said Paul Brandl, 17, a volunteer from Manogue High School. “My mom has MS, so I came to help out. Some people need a little extra help here and some don’t.”

Karen Kuhn of Reno is one of the lucky ones. She was diagnosed with MS two years ago, at age 50, and said while the disease has slowed her down and decreased her energy level, it hasn’t crushed her.

“I’m doing OK,” said Kuhn, who volunteers at the MS society offices. “In MS, your immune system basically attacks your nervous system. It affects everyone differently. Eyesight, balance, speech, memory can all be affected.

“It can come and go or it can cause permanent problems. The important thing is that people with MS need to know they aren’t alone. The society is here to help.”

Linda Lott, Great Basin Sierra Chapter president, said nearly 800 people in the Truckee Meadows have been diagnosed with MS. She said it is a chronic unpredictable disease that usually strikes people between the ages of 20 and 50. The physical and emotional effects continue the rest of their lives, she said.

“There’s no cure, but that’s one of the things the society and scientists are working on,” Lott said. “The good news is there are four drugs available that can slow the disease down.”

She said anyone may develop MS but there are some patterns. Twice as many women as men have the disease. Studies indicate that genetic factors make certain individuals more susceptible than others, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited.

According to the society, approximately one third of a million Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS might affect 2.5 million individuals. Because it is not contagious, which would require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible, the numbers are estimated.

“The goal is to find a cure,” Lott said. “With the new drugs that slow it down and decrease side effects, people can still live good lives while having MS.”

Kuhn said the society has made a difference in her life. By its support of patients and the search for a cure, she said, it offers hope to all those touched by the disease.

“MS will be beaten someday,” she said. “Until then, when it comes to my case, I just tell myself that God gives you what he knows you can handle.”

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