Archive for Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Resident challenges MS, 50-mile walk

June 1, 2005

— Monica Wagner likes challenges.

In a three-week period 10 months ago, the Lansing native found out she had been diagnosed with muscular sclerosis, took a job teaching preschool and decided she would fulfill a lifetime dream of skydiving.

"I figured, 'You still can do these things, so go do them,'" she said.

Wagner is taking the same approach to this weekend's MS Challenge Walk, a three-day, 50-mile walk to raise funds for the fight against MS, a neurological disease that affects the central nervous system and can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, paralysis or blindness.

"I think it's an extreme challenge," Wagner said about the walk, "and I'm always up to a challenge."

The walk begins Friday at Smithville Lake in Paradise, Mo. On the first day, participants will walk 19.5 miles to Excelsior Springs, Mo. Day two, walkers will trudge 20 miles to Liberty, Mo. The third and final day of the walk takes them on an 11.5-mile jaunt that ends in North Kansas City, Mo.

Wagner says she's been training for months, walking eight miles one day, 12 miles the next.

"I've put in many miles in training," she said. "Chances are if you've seen a girl walking down Fourth Street, it's me training."

She described her own MS as "remitting." According to the National Muscular Sclerosis Society, people with remitting MS experience clearly defined flare-ups - also called relapses, attacks or exacerbations. These are episodes of acute worsening of neurological function. They are followed by partial or complete recovery periods free of disease progression.

There are also progressive MS and progressive-relapsing MS.

Wagner said she first suspected something was amiss about five years ago. She was experiencing some tingling and numbness and decided to have it checked out. Doctors, she said, called it a virus and sent her on her way.

Fast-forward to 2004, and the tingling sensations had spread to her hands, arms and across her body. Further examination discovered the presence of lesions in the myelin sheaths around her brain's nerves - the telltale signs of MS.

She now takes weekly injections of Avonex, a drug for MS sufferers.

"Knock on wood, I haven't had a symptom since I've been on medication," she said.

MS, though debilitating, is not considered fatal. There is no known cure.

Though she said she wasn't surprised by her diagnosis in August 2004, Wagner said, "it does make me take a step back and do the things I can while I can : It was life-changing, but not in a bad way."

One of those things to do was participate in the MS Challenge Walk.

Before participants can begin the walk, though, they must raise a minimum of $1,500 in pledges. Wagner said she "took the easy way out" and wrote to family and friends on her Christmas card list to ask them to sponsor her. In the end, they contributed more than $3,000 to her cause.

"I've been totally blessed by my family and friends who have supported me," she said.

TO HELP OUT

If you'd like to support Monica Walker in this weekend's MS Challenge Walk, go to www.nationalmssociety.org/ksg/home/epledge_search_1.asp, type in her first and last name and click on submit. There is no need to type in a team name.

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