by Mary Swift
KENT -- Several years have passed since she took the call, but Lisa Boon still remembers the voice at the other end.
It was desperate, distraught, filled with despair.
The caller -- a woman recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system -- was having trouble with her husband.
"He didn't understand," Boon said.
"I tried to help as best I could," she said.
Boon tried to offer referral numbers where the woman might find help.
Then the phone clicked in her ear -- the woman had hung up.
"I was beside myself," Boon said. "Why hadn't I asked for her name or phone number to begin with? I had no way of trying to reach her. So I don't know if she was suicidal, or if they worked it out, or anything. That still weighs on me."
She may not know how that caller's life turned out -- but she knows the uncertainty the woman was feeling.
Now 41, Boon herself was diagnosed with MS a decade ago.
But her first symptoms, she said, appeared shortly after high school.
"My first symptom was oscillating vision -- your vision shifts to one side and back," she said. "It happened in the car. I was 19, on my way to work."
Various other symptoms followed -- along with a steady stream of doctors.
"They would see something and give me something and the symptoms would go away," she said.
Then came the day 10 years ago when she woke up to find half of her body paralyzed.
"It was like I'd had a stroke, " she said. "I couldn't feel anything. My husband called an ambulance."
Four weeks in a hospital, then two weeks in rehab followed.
And for Boon, the diagnosis came as a relief.
"It meant there wasn't a tumor," she said. "It put a name to it. It was something I could live with."
And she has.
She no longer has the attacks she once had. But she continues a steady physical decline.
Her vision has been affected to the point she no longer drives.
No longer able to walk without a cane or the support of a wall because of balance problems, she spends much of her day on a scooter.
Once a bookkeeper, she no longer works.
But Boon still finds plenty of ways to keep busy.
She and her husband, Martin, are active volunteers with the Greater Washington Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
She volunteers every Wednesday at the organization's Seattle office.
Since 1994, she's also been co-president of the organization's self-help support group in Kent.
The group meets the third Thursday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon at the Kent Resource Center.
"We have speakers who come in to talk about everything from neurological diseases to yoga," she said.
"I like to have a speaker about eight months out of the year. The rest of the time we have a discussion period where we all just throw in what's bothering us."
And, yes, as co-president she takes the calls that come from others sharing the same challenge -- others looking for information, a sympathetic ear or a word of encouragement form someone who has been there.
Since 1992, she and Martin also have been involved in the annual MS Walk in Tacoma. She began as a participant. These days -- no longer able to participate as a walker -- she helps with support activities during the event.
She also attends health fairs to talk about MS.
The Boons' efforts haven't gone unnoticed. They were named the Greater Washington chapter's Volunteers of the Year for 2001.
Angela Dettore of the Greater Washington Chapter said it was an award well-deserved.
"She's so motivated and devoted. She's here every Wednesday to do whatever we ask her to do," she said.
"She's all smiles and when she comes in it's always smiles and hugs."
But Lisa Boon said her volunteer efforts aren't totally altruistic.
"I can't work any more. When you can't work, it's easy to feel useless," she said.
"This makes me feel useful."
And she has a message she tries to share whenever she gets the chance -- by phone or in person: "Don't give up. It isn't hopeless."
For information on the self-help
support group of the Greater Washington Chapter of the National Multiple
Sclerosis Society, call Lisa Boon at 253-630-1722.
Copyright © 2002 Horvitz Newspapers,