All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2002

MS patient serves as inspiration

Friends, co-workers unite to raise funds to fight disease

October 04, 2002
By Ed Koch

In July, after bogeying the first hole of the final round of the Nevada State Amateur net division golf championship and losing the lead, Terry Henslee faced a defining moment -- a test of his fortitude under pressure.

On the par four second hole at the Las Vegas Paiute Resort's Sun Mountain course, he hit the fairway, then the green. Tightening his grip on the putter and concentrating on a seemingly shrinking hole, he sank an eight-foot birdie putt and took a lead he never would relinquish.

Three and a half years earlier, Henslee had faced another, more significant, defining moment in his life. While visiting his parents in Colorado at Thanksgiving, he found himself temporarily unable to move his muscles.

The diagnosis: Multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease for which there is no cure.

But the 49-year-old manager of the Coffee Pub restaurant has not let that crippling ailment stop him from enjoying life -- whether it is winning golf titles, jumping off helicopters and skiing down mountains or wind surfing.

"My whole philosophy is to live every day as if it will be the last that I will be able to do the things I love to do," said the Long Beach, Calif., native and Las Vegas resident of 24 years.

"That way, when the day comes that I won't be able to get out of bed, I will lie there knowing that I have no regrets."

Henslee is an inspiration not only to the more than 2,000 MS sufferers in Southern Nevada, but also to his able-bodied friends who are taking up his cause.

Henslee's boss and best friend, Marty Brees, owner of the Coffee Pub on West Sahara Avenue and an avid amateur bicyclist, will try to raise $10,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Desert Southwest Chapter during the 17th annual MS 150 Gambler's Classic Bike Tour Oct. 12-13.

Brees and his 30-member-plus Team Coffee Pub will participate in the Las Vegas-to-Laughlin event wearing bright yellow bike jerseys with the message "We Ride for Terry" emblazoned on the back.

"When your best friend tells you he has MS, you think, 'How is this possible?"' Brees said. "Here is a man who has always been a good athlete with golf, volleyball, racquetball, etc. He takes care of himself, he eats right. It really makes you want to do something -- anything -- to help someone like that.

"I ride a (carbon-fiber Calfee racing) bike. I know others who ride. So that is how we will help."

Henslee came to local attention when it was learned after his five-stroke victory in the state amateur golf championship that he was battling MS.

Henslee's golf handicap is 12 strokes. But in his mind, he has no other handicap. He has not applied for Social Security disability insurance nor a handicapped license plate, to which he is entitled. He works nearly 60 hours a week at the restaurant.

"Terry is an absolutely remarkable guy," said Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Gerald Dunn, one of Henslee's physicians. "He is a lot more active than many people who have had MS for as long as he has been diagnosed with it.

"Because it is progressive and because MS affects everyone differently, there is no way to tell how long he will be able to perform at his current level."

Dunn has Henslee on immuno-modulators, drugs developed in the past 12 years that have made vast improvement in the quality of life for MS sufferers. Henslee also has steroid therapy every three months, which has helped keep his MS attacks to a minimum. He has had just two attacks in five years.

But Henslee also credits his good health to maintaining an active life. He built a lap pool in his back yard and swims every day, and he does yoga.

Henslee also rides a stationary bike, but he leaves the open-road biking to Brees and the other skilled cyclists.

"All of us who have MS say that we live for the cure," Henslee said. "Fund-raisers like the MS 150 are essential to paying for the research that will bring about that cure."

To date Team Coffee Pub has received $6,000 in pledges and hopes to not only meet its five-figure goal this week but also influence riders from throughout the valley to register for the Gambler's Classic, which in recent years has had trouble attracting participants.

"In 1998 we had 800 riders, but last year we had just 130," said Carol Richardson, event coordinator for the Desert Southwest MS chapter. "The reason was a combination of the loss of our longtime bike tour coordinator and the fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"But with groups like the one riding for Terry and others we are hoping to have as many as 300 cyclists registered by the start of this year's tour."

Henslee is not the only inspirational story of this year's MS 150.

Lauriann Bradford, who has fibromyalgia, which is similar to MS in that it brings on severe muscle soreness, fatigue and also has no cure, will be riding her Pogliaghi Italian racing bike in the tour.

"Besides raising money and awareness for MS, I also hope to bring attention to FM and inspire others with fibromyalgia to begin and maintain an exercise program," Bradford said.

After being diagnosed with the disease following an auto accident, Bradford spent two years lying around before deciding "to take back my life." After working out daily on an exercise machine, she began bike riding.

A member of the Las Vegas Valley Bicycle Club, she credits The Bike Shop locally with training tips that have resulted in her rapid improvement.

Bradford's goal is to raise $1,000 for MS. She will wear on her jersey the name of local MS sufferer Dina Yenchek, a friend she met through her home-schooling support group, who Bradford said has inspired her to meet challenges.

Some MS sufferers go the extra mile in impressing people with their dignity and determination.

"Terry Henslee always is willing to do so much," Richardson said. "It's not just his athletic accomplishments, but he also talks to others who have been diagnosed with MS and shows them that they also can live productive lives."

Recently Henslee went on a two-week tour of golf courses in Ireland and Scotland. At St. Andrews, the birthplace of the game, Henslee shot an 88.

Henslee's state amateur title this year ended years of frustration in the event. Since 1998 he has led the state amateur after the first round on a few occasions, only to fade in the final two rounds. He says his disability had nothing to do with those disappointing performances.

"Others played better or I had a bad day or it was a combination of both," he said. "Having MS did not affect my play at all.

"This year I was leading at the end of the second round, not the first. Maybe that's the reason (I won)," Henslee joked.

While Henslee will ride in spirit with Team Coffee Pub next weekend, he will be nowhere near the race course.

"Someone has to stay behind and run the restaurant," Henslee said. "But I know they will call and let me know they are doing well."

© 2002 Las Vegas Sun, Inc