By Mike Lisagor
Eleven years ago, my wife, Trude, and I joined a few brave island friends to take the zero dark thirty ferry to Seattle to participate in the MS walk fundraiser at Husky Stadium. For Trude, who has had multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1996, it was a physical wipeout.
Noticing Trude’s fatigue, our friend Lynn De Vree asked if we could do the walk on Bainbridge Island. The rest, as they say, is history. Now entering its 10th year, Bainbridge Island Walk MS has raised almost $800,000 for MS research and services. The response from our community has been, and continues to be, amazing.
Walks take place nationally at over 550 locations with more than 330,000 people participating annually. Since 1988, more than $920 million has been raised to drive research, provide life-changing programs and guarantee a supportive community for those living with MS.
On the island, more than 100 people have MS. Some, like Alyson Jay, were diagnosed at a young age. Jay, a certified medical assistant and the Walk MS team captain for Virginia Mason Bainbridge Island, said she is unable to walk as far as she used to and walking too much makes her legs go numb.
Sitting, especially without medication, also causes her pain. Like most people with MS, Jay experiences fatigue that makes working difficult. Her husband, Jon Bingham, the Bainbridge Police Department Walk MS team captain, has become very observant about how his wife is feeling physically as well as her general affect.
He also does a lot of their cooking, which fortunately he loves to do. The couple walks for a cure and for research to find treatments to reverse the effects of the disease. Tamara Sellman, a professional writer and freethinker, found out she had MS just as she was finishing up a return to college in her mid-40s.
It was a frustrating time because there was already the stress of graduating, finding a job, passing board exams and adjusting to the demands of work (in a sleep lab, no less, where she worked 12- to 13-hour overnight shifts).
Stress is the enemy of MS, so Sellman had to figure out how to have this new career and manage her condition over the long term. Sellman’s family has had to accommodate her need to rest, stay out of hot weather and avoid sensory overstimulation.
They now recognize that her problems with speech or memory are related to MS and are signs she needs to slow down. Although they might not be visible, Sellman feels her MS symptoms every day, even during her current remission. Knowing it could be much worse, she rolls with it.
Sellman participates in the MS walk because she wants to help fund research on the latest treatments (especially remyelination and stem cell therapy), which show promise for both relapse/remitting and progressive MS.
She walks also for younger friends with more aggressive cases of MS and for those more severely disabled, who benefit from National MS Society-funded services that help with working life, disability claims and relationships. Join us on April 9 for this kid-friendly, three-mile walk through downtown Winslow.
Helping neighbors like Jay and Sellman is just one of the many reasons Bainbridge Islanders support Walk MS. For more information or to register for the walk, visit walkMSnorthwest.org.