February 22, 2002
By David L. Felts, Editor of The Daily News
TURK LAKE - For an active person, sitting down and doing nothing isn't easy. Yet for 15 years, that's what Faith Kutchinski has been doing, thanks to a debilitating illness known as multiple sclerosis.
It's been more than 15 years since the rural Turk Lake resident was diagnosed with the degenerative disease of the central nervous system that Webster's Dictionary says is marked by the slow "hardening of tissue in the brain or spinal cord, or both."
It wasn't always that way. Now in her 50s, Kutchinski had a modeling career as a young woman. From 1966 to 1971, she did a variety of commercial work through an agency in Grand Rapids. She focused on photographic work for advertising and catalogs.
"I did a few fashion shows, but I didn't really like walking down that runway. Mostly I did photos, though I did the motorcycle and car shows in Grand Rapids. I had a lot of fun," she said recently in an interview from the home she shares with her son.
In addition to modeling, she was "always very busy" with community work.
"I did the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon for years. We made lots of money ... Greenville always did very well," she said.
Through the years, Kutchinski worked at Federal-Mogul as a bookkeeper and at the Flat River Cable Television company. After a serious car accident, she was unable to walk until she had surgery to straighten her foot. "Then I had my legs - for a while."
Through the years, Kutchinski said she would unexpectedly grow ill, then recover. Eventually, she grew weaker and found it increasingly difficult to work and - eventually - to walk.
Finally, a mystery of sorts was solved when, in 1987, she was diagnosed with MS. It was not a great surprise - she said her family has a predisposition to degenerative nervous disorders. But it was a huge lifestyle change, from an active life that included community and church work, to spending her time confined to a wheelchair and able to do only the lightest of household chores.
It was "a horrible adjustment" not to do some work, she said, recalling the early years of dealing with the disease. "In fact, I still did some work for the historical society and at church until I just couldn't do it anymore."
Her friends at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where Kutchinski is still an active member, have helped her cope - along with a deepening spirituality.
"Prayer, and the church - really the people at church - have been so kind to me. It's really made a difference. That, and my grandson," she said.
Kutchinski, whose doctor calls her "our miracle lady" credits prayer and a positive attitude for keeping her alive and in relatively good condition for someone with a debilitating disease with no cure.
Her advice to anyone in a similar situation is to rely on God's grace.
"Believe that God will provide you with the strength to do what you have to do. Don't let the disease get you down - especially in the beginning, it's so easy to be angry and depressed.
"It's super-hard to adjust to just sitting around. But it's important to think positive ... always think positive."
Every morning, Kutchinski prays and
asks for help to get through the day. "Don't worry about tomorrow - and
just gulp down your pills," she said.
©The Daily News 2002