Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My MS Walk

Saturday I participated in the MS Journey for Hope walk here in Massachusetts.  The 5 mile walk took place in Natick (about 30 minutes outside of the city), and had us wander through cute neighborhoods, pass a pretty pond, and stop up traffic for everyone not involved.  (oops!)

My friend Ann, who has MS, asked me to do the walk with her a few weeks ago, so I joined the Newton Wellesley Hospital MS Clinic team (her clinic) and started raising funds to meet my $250 goal.  The really great thing about this walk is that 85% of funds raised by the team went directly to that clinic, so the money stays local and helps people with MS in your area specifically. 

Ann and I met almost four years ago, and she has become one of my all-time favorite people.  When Toby was an itty bitty guy, Travis took him to PetSmart one afternoon.  He came home and said "Oh my gosh Lauren, I saw the cutest dog at PetSmart today!  It had the biggest head and the littlest body and was so sweet.  Toby loved her...I hope you get to meet this dog one day!"  

A few weeks later we signed up for puppy training, and as we waited for our first class to begin, in bumbles this cute dog and her two people, which turned out to be Amelia (dog), Ann, and Terence!  Our entire class got along really well, and our dog trainer laughed when she realized we were all hanging out outside of puppy class.  Whooo makes friends at dog training??  (We do!)

It was at one of the puppy classes that I realized Ann had MS.  She was usually bopping around the class, but this time came in walking with a cane.  Before this, I hadn't known anyone my age with MS, so I was amazed to see how quickly an episode could come on and effect someone.  As we've become friends, I've learned a lot more about Ann's story and MS, and can easily say that in addition to being one of the most caring and giving people, Ann is one of the strongest people I know.

I've watched her trudge through times when her vision would go completely blurry, hands would feel like they were on fire, legs and hands would go numb, or she'd experience the "MS Hug" (which contrary to its name, is not a lovey dovey feeling).  Regular MRI's and crazy tests to see if a 'new' medication will be a better option are a part of regular life...and every now and then there are the massive 5-day steroid doses when an episode won't go away on its own.

I've also watched her be one of the most inspiring self/patient advocates ever, doing lots of research to see what will help her be healthy.  This has involved strategies from going gluten free (which significantly reduced the severity of some episodes or made them go away all together), to becoming more physically active,  to realizing that sleep is important.  :)  

I would imagine having a disease like MS (where one day can be completely different from the next) might make some completely self absorbed.  It might make ME completely self absorbed!  Ann, on the other hand, is anything but.  We've come home from a vacation to find bread, milk, and other staples waiting for us so there's something to eat when we're exhausted from a long trip.  One of her favorite things to do is throw an elaborate dinner party so she can watch her friends have a fantastic time.  She picks up a her elderly neighbor's cat and take it to the vet every other month so her friend doesn't have to get out with a bad hip.  And she's genuinely interested in what's going on in YOUR life, even when there might be much more happening with her at the moment.

Ann has taught me that while having MS changes your life, it does not have to define it.  In the harshest of circumstances, there is hope and a silver lining, and Ann finds this daily.  Learning more about MS has also convinced me that more needs to be done to find a cure for this unpredictable disease.  I encourage you to find some way to get involved!  Look to see if there's a walk in your area, donate to someone raising money for the cause, or volunteer at your local clinic.  

So...when Ann asked if I'd do the walk with her the answer was, of COURSE, yes.  The Newton Wellesley Clinic team consisted of Ann's Neurologist, her father and two children, Ann, Terence, and their dog Sara, friend Jerin, and the Ziskas (Joe, Carrie, and Katherine).  I think there were a few other people on the team but they arrived at the last minute and I didn't catch their names!

We set off on our 5 mile trek through Natick and had a great time chatting while we walked.  There were police set up at all the intersections making sure no one got hurt crossing any of the roads, and two rest areas set up if you needed a drink, snack, or sunscreen.  They really did a fantastic job with everything - it went off without a hitch (at least from a participant's point of view).

Katherine (front), (L-R) Carrie, me, Ann, Jerin, Terence & Sara, Joe(back)

Sara & her lei

When we finished the walk, we got our "finisher's leis", sat outside and listened to the DJ while we ate a little lunch.  Then I went home and took Toby for (another) walk while I waited for Travis to get home from graduation.  Saturday was his first time marching with the faculty at Gordon College.  He had several students graduating this year and was excited to watch them cross the stage, but will be missing them in classes next semester.

Once Travis got home, we went back over to Ann and Terence's house to grill out and pat ourselves on the back for walking 5 miles, and all the dogs played.

As you now know, Toby and Amelia have been bff's since they met in puppy class.  Last year, Ann & Terence got a second dog, Sara, who is super sweet.  Toby and Sara have played together a lot, but hadn't really hit off yet.  That all changed Saturday.  It's was like their eyes cleared and they realized they were in love...and it was so adorable.  They rubbed their faces on each other, Toby would climb on her face and she'd roll him off, then wrap her long arms around him and liiiick.  Poor Amelia was very jealous, but the whole thing was super cute.

Thank you to everyone who donated toward my walk!  It was a great day for a great cause...with great friends!


  1. This looks like a wonderful day - and Ann is an incredible person! You two are lucky to be friends!

  2. It sounds like you and Ann were meant to meet & become friends. She sounds like an amazing individual. Congrats to you on your walk and for supporting a wonderful cause.

    1. Thanks Melissa! That's what we thought too - our pups brought us together. :)

  3. I think you're amazing, Lauren! Thank you for doing the walk with me, and for everything else you do!!! MS is a lot less of a drag with great friends like you around! (and now I'm crying because of all the super nice things you wrote! Way to go, haha)

  4. Thanks for walking!! And thanks for raising money for MS! I did the Boston Walk and it was fun but a bit chilly this year!

    1. We missed the Boston Walk! There are SO many around. I really like your new 'logo'...very cool!!

  5. What a nice blog!! You guys are lucky to be friends :)