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Walk MS event raises money for multiple sclerosis research

By Kristen Campbell , Tuscaloosa News

972 days ago   Article ID# 1528033
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National Multiple Sclerosis Society

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA (Tuscaloosa News) - Sonya Mansfield will be walking three miles on March 31, and she’ll be doing it for one reason: Because her mother could not.

Mansfield does not remember a time when her mother was not confined to a wheelchair, visible evidence of her mother’s battle with the disease that eventually took her life.

“My mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was just five years old,” said Mansfield. “I had to watch her struggle for 10 years with the effects of MS until she passed away when I was 15.”

In memory of her mother, Mansfield will be participating in Tuscaloosa’s Walk MS event Saturday sponsored by the Alabama-Mississippi chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Amanda Burton, event manager, said that Walk MS not only brings together people in the community who are affected by MS, but it also supports research and helps people with the disease move forward with their lives.

Check-in for the event begins at 8:30 am at Snow Hinton Park, and the walk begins at 9:30 am. The event will offer one-, two-, and three-mile route options.

“The Walk MS event has existed in Alabama for 25 years,” said Burton. “This will be the third year that Tuscaloosa has hosted an event.”

Burton said registration for the event is free, but participants are encouraged to raise at least $100 for the cause. Those who do so will receive a Walk MS t-shirt. Individuals can register on the day of the event, and fundraising will remain open for up to six weeks.

Burton said that raising funds to fight the progression of the disease could change the lives of thousands of Americans who suffer with it

“Multiple sclerosis stops people from moving,” said Burton. “The MS society exists to stop this.”

Approximately 400,000 people have multiple sclerosis in the United States, with 200 new patients diagnosed every week, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Burton said that the disease affects more than 4,200 Alabama residents.

According to the society, the illness is chronic and, in most cases, is disabling. It attacks the central nervous system with symptoms ranging from numbness in the limbs to effects as severe as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.

Cindy Tyson, a West Alabama resident, said she struggles every day with the hardships of living with multiple sclerosis.

Tyson said she remembers having symptoms 10 years before being officially diagnosed in 1996.

“When my son Blake was born in 1985, I couldn’t walk for eight weeks,” said Tyson. “I knew something wasn’t right even back then, but it took a long time for doctors to find out what was wrong.”

Tyson said the disease didn’t just change her body, it changed her whole life.

“One day, I was dancing, doing theater, doing all these things,” she said. “And then all of a sudden, things just wouldn’t work anymore.”

After her doctor projected that Tyson, then 32, would be confined to a wheelchair by age 40, she sold her business, moved from her two-story home into one that was wheelchair-accessible and prepared for a drastic lifestyle change.

Tyson, however, is defying her doctor’s prognosis. At age 47, she said she is still walking, active in her community and fighting the progression of the disease.

“I didn’t want my son to only remember his mother always being in bed, I wanted to be there for him,” said Tyson. “So, I kept going … through knowledge, research, prayer and faith.”

Tyson said she has learned to live with her disease and not focus on the difficulties that may come in the future. She has altered her diet to include more nutritious foods and regularly seeks other avenues that may give her a better quality of life.

“I have found that I don’t have to just lie down and give up,” said Tyson. “I just live my life, do what I want, and listen to my body when I need to stop.”

Tyson said her main struggles with the disease have been vision problems, difficulty walking and clumsiness.

Mansfield said she remembers seeing her mother with similar difficulties, especially her vision.

“At first her vision would just get blurry,” said Mansfield. “But by the last two years of her life, she was completely blind.”

While the causes of MS are still unknown, the National MS Society said researchers are considering several factors that may be involved. Studies are ongoing in immunology, epidemiology and genetics to find the cause of the disease. The National MS Society focuses on understanding the causes because it believes that understanding the cause is a step toward more effective treatment and a possible cure, or even the ability to prevent it in the first place. The Tuscaloosa event is part of those efforts.

Mansfield said today’s event is vital for those who want answers about the disease.

“By doing this walk, I’m hoping to raise money for multiple sclerosis research,” she said. “Maybe one day there will be a cure, and someone else won’t have to lose their mother the way I did.”

Copyright 2014 Tuscaloosa News   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 972 days ago   Article ID# 1528033

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