More MS news articles for May 2000

MS sufferers walk to find elusive cure

Effort to raise money for research kicks off at five metro area sites

Mary Lou Pickel - Staff
Sunday, May 14, 2000

Cherry Zimmer knew the signs of multiple sclerosis. Her husband came down with the debilitating neuromuscular disease when he was 33. So when Zimmer tried to brush her hair one morning and lost control of her arm, she got a dreadful feeling.

"Oh my God," she said. "I'm just like him."

The chances of both a husband and wife contracting multiple sclerosis, a noncontagious disease, are exceedingly slim. The Zimmers of Duluth, who are math and engineering whizzes, put the odds at 1 in 640,000. The chances of finding a cure for the disease that afflicts 200 people every week are also slim. That's why the Zimmers and about 150 others showed up Saturday for the Multiple Sclerosis Walk in Lawrenceville.

It was one of five walks throughout the metro area Saturday --- others were in Atlanta, Jonesboro, Marietta and Stone Mountain --- organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Georgia Chapter. The goal was to raise money for research and spread awareness of the illness. About 700 cities nationwide have organized walks.

"Somewhere there's going to be a dollar, and that's the dollar that's going to make a difference," Zimmer said.

The Lawrenceville crowd raised $22,205 Saturday, organizers said, and they expect more donations to trickle in.

For Cherry Zimmer, 45, walking the 3-mile course was a triumph. For several years she needed a wheelchair. Then she graduated to a cane, and now she walks on her own, thanks to regular workouts and a drug called Avonex that she started taking almost immediately after diagnosis. The drug minimizes damage to the nerves, she said.

Multiple sclerosis scars the brain and spine, causing numbness and blurred vision and interfering in patients' control of their muscular responses. "It's like running a wire with no insulation among other wires," Craig Zimmer, 47, said. "You get cross-talk."

Cherry Zimmer still can't walk toe to toe because her balance is off. Her husband has lost feeling in his limbs, and although he can walk a little and drive a car, he relies on a wheelchair to get around because he becomes exhausted quickly.

They've installed elevators and wider doors in their home and each drives a large van. Stress can trigger episodes in which the symptoms worsen, they said. But the couple said support groups have helped, as well as their two cats.

"I've gotten past the 'MS is the controlling factor in my life' stage," Cherry Zimmer said.