Putting Up the Good MS Fight

TRACY M. FITZGERALD MarApr2014 GoodDeedsbig

Throughout April and May, thousands of Marylanders will walk in one of 11 local 5K events planned and sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Maryland Chapter. Collectively, their efforts will raise thousands of dollars to support research and the continuous search for a cure to a disease that impacts approximately 400,000 Americans – multiple sclerosis, or MS.

“We have been doing the walks for 25 years. They are the chapter’s largest program, fundraiser and gathering of patients and people who have been touched by MS,” said Mark Roeder, chapter president. “They create a tremendous opportunity for people with MS to interact with others who face similar challenges, and also for us to bring communities of people together who want to help.”

Multiple sclerosis is diagnosed when a person’s immune system attacks the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, resulting in symptoms ranging from numbness, weakness and fatigue to loss of muscle control, vision and balance. It is typically detected in early adulthood and is slightly more prevalent in women.

Like each of the 40 other chapters of the National MS Society, the Maryland chapter’s key priorities center around driving research for a cure and addressing the issues that patients face, providing guidance to help each maximize their quality of life despite their individual medical challenges. While some turn to the organization for financial support or assistance with securing and utilizing medical equipment, others take advantage of the chapter’s educational and social programs, or join advocacy efforts to justify the need for funding.

“More than $48 million was invested into MS research, allowing for 350 investigations and clinical trials, in 2013,” said Roeder. “Every dollar we raise supports these efforts, as well as our ability to hold programs here in Maryland to help our local patients and their families.”

One such program is the Maryland chapter’s annual “Discovery Weekend,” held in Ocean City and offering a series of interactive, high-energy workshops to help patients and their families learn new techniques to cope with symptoms of the disease, stress, medication issues and everything in between. The program’s agenda is intentionally constructed with many periods of downtime to give families an opportunity to talk, connect and share stories and ideas. The chapter also facilitates an annual research symposium each fall, in partnership with clinicians from Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center, to discuss current research projects, diagnosis and treatment protocols and advancements in care. The symposium is open to physicians and the general public.

“Things happen and change so quickly in the MS world; the emerging information is constant,” said Roeder. “The research symposium is a way we can keep physicians and their patients abreast of our latest findings, and make them aware of new medications, therapies and environmental factors that affect people with the disease.”

Also on the calendar of upcoming fundraising events for the Chapter is the Bike MS Chesapeake Challenge, scheduled for the weekend of May 31, with several course options available ranging from 30 to 100 miles throughout the scenic waterfront communities of Talbot County.

For further information about Walk MS or Bike MS, or to learn more about the resources and programs offered by MS Maryland, visit nmss-md.org.

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