All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2004

MS self-help group focusing on battling disease

Keeping up with the latest medical advancements will be priority

May 1, 2004
Christine Varno

Dennis Huntley is playing his part in the battle against multiple sclerosis (MS).

Huntley, 42, of Highwood Road, was diagnosed with the neurological disease MS in June, and refusing to succumb to the illness, he co-founded Making Connections, a self-help group for individuals with MS in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

"When my doctor confirmed my diagnosis, I was in her office immediately to find out what I could do to help myself," Huntley said.

Huntley resolved to be as proactive as possible while battling MS. He reached out to others in the community living with MS and joined two support groups, one in Marlboro and one in Toms River.

"I did not like my experiences with those support groups," Huntley said.

His problem with these traditional groups was that the people in them had settled into their situations and were not taking advantage of new medical treatments.

"Things have changed, and people do not know that," Huntley said. "We are in a new generation."

With that understanding, Huntley took things into his own hands. "I decided to get involved in starting a self-help group because it was a way for me to educate myself, provide a positive goal to work toward, and to meet others with my condition."

Huntley wanted to stay away from the traditional group methods where he said there was little interest to stay on the cutting edge of up-to-date research and treatment breakthroughs.

"We want to educate and inform with a positive outlook," Huntley said. "We will bring in speakers and provide the latest information on clinical treatments of MS in a more up-beat atmosphere."

Bonnie Bardinas, the public relations consultant for the New Jersey chapter of the National MS Society, said she is excited about the Making Connections group.

"It is in an area where there is a need for a self-help group," Bardinas said. "Sometimes it is hard for people with MS to travel, and this offers a nice service for them. These meetings help break the feelings of isolation associated with MS and give people a chance to take charge of their disease."

MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It can cause permanent problems or its symptoms may be recurring. Among the effects of the disease are blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, difficulties with memory and concentration, paralysis and blindness.

The disease affects one in 750 Americans and one in 40 who have a parent with MS, according to information provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

According to the society, approximately 400,000 Americans have been diagnosed as having MS, and every week, about 200 more people are diagnosed.

Huntley lives with his wife, Susan, and son, Bryan, 7, who he said are very supportive and understanding about his situation, but he expressed the need to talk to someone experiencing similar problems.

"Unless you have what I have and have walked in my shoes, you do not know what is going on," Huntley said. "We have all felt the fear and been through denial and now want to go through the support group venue to­gether."

The first meeting will take place on May 15 from 10 a.m. to noon at St. Anselm’s Church in Wayside, and Huntley expects about 10 to 15 people to attend.

It will be an open forum for those with MS, their care-takers and family members, which will take place the third Saturday of every month.

"I am not only doing this for others, but by telling my story, I will be eas­ing my pain and helping myself," Huntley said. "Our goal is to educate with the latest information available and to share our experiences as we deal with everyday life. Thus the group name, Making Connections."

Those interested on attending or for more information can call Dennis at 732-531-7570 or for more information about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society call 1-800-FIGHT-MS.

Copyright © 2004, Atlanticville