Ok, only within work. My company is big on making sure diversity is recognized and celebrated. And as October is National Disability Awareness month (who knew?!), the editor of our weekly paper requested people share their disability stories. Having recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and also growing up with it as Dad was diagnosed in the 70’s, I had a story to share. Below is my story as it appeared in our weekly paper (keep in mind, it’s a short paper):
When Val Dewing woke up one Friday morning last November, she knew something was different. Parts of her hands and feet were numb. By the end of the weekend, three-fourths of her body felt numb or tingled.
“It was as if my body was ‘asleep’,” the Global Anti-Money Laundering Unit investigator recalled. Val chose to share her story as part of National Disability Awareness Month.
Doctors ordered a battery of tests, many to rule out possible causes. Val underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a spinal tap, blood tests and a visual evoke response exam.
In the end, the diagnosis was Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of the CNS is a fatty tissue called myelin, which helps nerve fibers conduct electrical impulses.
“My white blood cells become overactive and attack the myelin,” said Val. “It leaves scar tissue behind and depending on the extent of the damage, the nerve messages stutter or don’t go anywhere. There is no cure yet.”
Val takes medication to reduce flare-ups and during the day usually experiences very minor tingling and sometimes hyper sensitivity. She said her work has not been affected.
“I like to crochet,” she said, “but sometimes after only one row the sensation makes my hands very sore. But I refuse to put it down. As long as I can do the things I enjoy, I’m going to do it.”
Val said her prognosis is wide open. “It may never get worse,” she said.
According the National MS Society, the majority of people with the disease do not become severely disabled. It is not contagious, is not directly inherited and most people with the disease have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.
Val’s father was diagnosed with a form of MS 30 years ago. “He experiences it mostly in his feet and legs. Once in a while he needs to use a cane.”
Val feels the MS in her legs sometimes, too. She exercises, often using the Wellness Center’s stationary bikes during the week and riding her own bicycle at home on weekends. “We often ride 8 to 14 miles a day,” she said. “But sometimes it feels as if someone wrapped saran wrap around my legs.”
Val is training for the MS 150, a two-day, 150-mile cycling fundraiser in central Florida.
Asked what point about disabilities she would like people to be aware of, Val mentioned disabled parking. “Just because you don’t see something wrong, doesn’t mean there isn’t,” she said. “Many people with chronic, severe pain, for example, say ‘This is just a small part of who I am. I’m not going to let it control me.’ And you may not see the pain they are in.”
Val does not have a disabled parking sticker. “I’m not going to get one until I need it,” she said. “But please leave the disabled parking for those who do.”
If you would like to learn more about the MS 150 or have other questions, please contact Val Dewing via email or call 604-6343. n