According to the Mayo Clinic, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of our body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves, themselves, to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.
There’s no cure for Multiple Sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.
MS is a personal cause that I feel very strongly about due to the loved ones in my life being affected. Included are very close friends, distant family members and patients I’ve helped. I feel it’s a disease that isn’t talked about as much as other diseases, and I wish to bring more light to it!
MS Run the US is a non-profit whose goal is for entrants to run for those who cannot, to raise awareness and raise money for research. This includes raising money for people who are struggling with MS; whom may need items like wheelchairs and ramps to help them get into their house. What we participants do is run from LA to NYC! There are 18 segments, broken down to about a week. Each relay runner is assigned a segment where they will, on average, run a marathon each day (26-plus miles) for that week, to raise $10,000 for their segment.
I was lucky enough to have been chosen to take part in this relay in 2014. I had the last segment, which began in Sunbury, PA and ended in NYC, totaling 170 miles.
I recently ran it again, and you may wonder why. You see, a woman named Ashley founded MS Run the US. She was inspired by her mother, Jill, who was severely affected by the disease, to run across America herself with the same mission in mind as the relay.
Not only is Jill an inspiration for Ashley; she’s the entire MS community’s inspiration. In 2014, Jill couldn’t walk, but she wanted to walk across the finish line when the relay ended in New York. Guess what? She trained all summer long to get the strength in her legs in order to accomplish her goal. With Ashley holding an arm on one side of Jill, and another runner on the other side, Jill had the New York City spectators cheering her on as she crossed the finish line. It was a sight to be seen; there wasn’t a dry eye in the park.
Jill was also an inspiration to me. Her disease allowed me to flourish. It allows others to become aware and also do incredible things just as she and her daughter have. Jill passed away this year. I heard about her passing as I was going into Hobby Lobby. I remember it so well. I had to sit down and cry and soak it all in. I realized, in that very moment, how monumental Jill and this relay have been in my life.
I felt compelled to help the relay, as well as my family. I asked Ashley what I could do to help. The first segment of the relay this year had lost its runner due to her father’s decline, with his very own, horrific MS. I told them I could run, as I had been training for something already. This act sparked other “alumni runners” to come along and help pitch in some miles for the first segment, as well. We were a family who had come together to run miles to honor our beloved Jill – who couldn’t take any more steps forward, as she had been taken far too soon.
Once again, I laced up my shoes and put one foot in front of the other to accomplish another challenging feat to help honor those who cannot do the same. I started running in Palmdale, CA and ended in Barstow, CA. It ended up being 77 miles, which was run in three days. After I was finished, I almost felt a sense of completion. Like I was able to help Jill, as if it was my turn to help her.
I want to give great thanks to my family here at Celestial Care for allowing me to have the time off to do this. I appreciate those who covered my shifts. I also love that you came together to chip in money in support of The Run. It means the world to me. Thank you so very much.
We will not stop running until there’s a cure to end Multiple Sclerosis.
By Valerie Olberding, Celestial Care Employee
Pictured is Valerie at the MS Run the US