How would you tell friends and family that you'd been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system? It's a difficult question that an estimated one in every 400 Coloradans has to make. Each person handles it differently, says Carrie Nolan, the president of the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National MS Society.
Two years ago, she met a young woman participating in the chapter’s annual bike ride fundraiser—one of several fitness-related events the Society holds each year—with her family and friends. The young woman sported an “I Ride With MS” jersey the second day of the ride. It was her way of telling her family she has the incurable disease. She told Nolan: “I could never find the right time to tell my family that I had MS. I wanted it to be from a position of strength. At the bike ride, they saw me, and I was faster than them. I was strong. And then they couldn’t freak out that I had MS.”
The Society is a resource for those, like that biker and her family, affected by the disease. “MS doesn’t come with a manual,” Nolan says. “We ask questions that you didn’t know to ask because we don’t know what we don’t know.” MS is an individualized disease, the cause is unknown, diagnosis can be tricky, and symptoms vary. The Society's fundraisers raise awareness and funds for research and programs for those with MS. “Part of being involved is just being an ambassador and talking about it,” Nolan says. “There are many more people who are more quiet or invisible with their MS.”
Get Involved: Register for the group's next fitness fix: The annual Change Your Altitude About MS hike at Copper Mountain on July 27. You must raise a minimum of $50 per person and pay a $40 registration fee. Two-mile, six-mile, and 10-mile trails will be mapped out for you.
—Image courtesy of Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National MS Society