Walk for a Cure: Multiple Sclerosis

Walk for a Cure
Multiple Sclerosis
by Jennifer LB Leese

Right now over 300,000 Americans are living with MS. Most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with two thirds being women. The disease is more frequently found among individuals who grew up in colder climates. MS is an unpredictable disease and symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Because MS affects individuals so differently, it is difficult to make generalizations about disability.
"MS has symptoms that you don't see with your eyes--losing short term memory, bladder problems--Anything that's controlled by the nerves in your body--that's what it effects," says Elaine Scrivener from Smithsburg.
"The disease is sort of like Alzheimer's [disease]. It picks away at your life a little at a time," says her husband Tom.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted. Today, advances in research and treatment are giving hope to people who are affected by the disease.
Some of the symptoms of MS include tingling, numbness, bladder, bowel, or sexual problems, mood swings, painful sensations, slurred speech, and blurred or double vision. Some people experience muscle weakness, poor balance, poor coordination, muscle tightness or spasticity, or paralysis. Multiple Sclerosis is a treatable disease. During my research, I have talked with some amazing people.
Tom and Elaine Scrivener from Maryland are in charge of organizing the Antietam Battlefield Walk. They do this with the hopes of raising pledges as well as raising awareness for the disease. Their son has MS and they "want a cure." "He was a research worker at Fort Detrick with a master's degree in biological science," says Tom. Their son is now on disability because of the short-term memory loss. Their daughter originated the walk in Hagerstown. Their daughter-in-law originated the walk in Winchester. "Before that, we walked in Annapolis," informs Tom.
"The walk has been around for 11 years. Our family has been involved for 10 of those 11 years," says Elaine. "It's an extended family tradition." The walk in Hagerstown was first at the City Park and through town. Because of safety issues, the walk was moved to Antietam Battlefield.
Elaine and Tom "get satisfaction that you've done something for the cause and for society in general." "We're very upset with Multiple Sclerosis. It's a disease that's been very obscure. Awareness is out now since "West Wing" has been portraying the president as having MS." Elaine stated that most people don't know what MS is. There's a lot of mix-ups."
"We start organizing in September for the April walk." The team meets once a month at the Scrivener's home. "Anyone wishing to join the Planning Commission, now with 12 members, is more than welcome," states Elaine.
Last year, Tom and Elaine's team turned in over $5,000. The Antietam Walk, as a whole, raised $58,000 with a little over 600 walkers. "That was our best year ever," says Elaine.
The Antietam Battlefield Walk occurs every year around April. You can walk as an individual or as part of a team. No matter which you choose, you'll finish the MS Walk with a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction of knowing that you've made a difference. And you'll have a great time doing it! "People enjoy walking through Antietam. It's a beautiful walk in the spring," says Tom who informed me that the walk used to consist of 5 miles, but when people complained at the distance, they changed it to 5K, but this year it will be 3 miles long. On the day of the event, participants will receive a map of the walk, information of local history with human interest stories of Antietam Battlefield, and "lunch [at the Battlefield] from Outback Steakhouse after the walk."
Prizes and giveaways are available as well as free food and drink at every rest stop. Prizes change every year, but they have been T-shirts, sweatshirts, denim shirts, and much more. Many area businesses donate to the Walk every year.
Monica Hutchins, Academic Advisor at Hagerstown Community College, is a go-getter. She has goals and doesn't want anything to stop her. Monica Hutchins has Multiple Sclerosis. She is five months pregnant and a mother of a 2-year-old. "He's the inspiration behind it all, because I was scared that I can't have a baby and have MS, and that's not true. With support, not only from family, medical physicians, friends, and so forth, I was able to get through my first pregnancy with no problems."
For a year, doctors thought she had fibromalaysia because they weren't looking for MS. You see, Monica is an African American. Multiple Sclerosis is not dominant in African Americans. "But it is there," she says, "To be honest with you...we are...I haven't found a large amount...number of African Americans but I'm starting to see more color related to MS. That part scared me the most" because she thought it was more dominant in Caucasians. "I have no knowledge of MS being in my family.
"You begin to wonder, is it a cultural thing?"
Monica belongs to a team called "Baby Steps 4 Mommy" that is homebased in Frederick. This group of 20 members is participating in the Frederick Walk on April 10 at West Frederick Middle School and the Antietam Walk on April 16. This year HCC helped to recruit some students to participate in the walks. In 2004, the team raised over $3,000 for the cure.
Owner of "MS Information Links & Fun Stuff Too:" A website for friends and family members that just don't understand (link below), Deann Walter has a section on her website that lets others know what MS feels like. Deann accepts emails about questions and concerns. "It's a cool site," says Monica.
"After I learned more about the disease, I educated my family, friends and coworkers and I was lucky, they all understood. Those of you who don't understand should educate yourself about the disease since someone you know now has it," says Deann.
For more information about "Baby 4 Mommy", contact Monica Hutchins at hutchinsm@hagerstowncc.edu. To contact Deann Walter write dean.walter@adelphia.net or visit www.deannandlenny.com.
If you are interested in participating in any of the MS Walks, register online at www.mswalk-md.org. Call the National Multiple Sclerosis at 1-800-FIGHT-MS (1-800-344-4867) or visit www.nationalmssociety.org.
If you would like to donate items to the Antietam Battlefield's Silent Auction, call Linda Tweit (301-834-7973) or Elaine Scrivener (301-797-1487).