“The cause is a mystery, the cure is unknown. That is why we walk,” read a T-shirt worn by Diana Ledgerwood. Her oldest daughter, Gayle Krout, 40, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in May.
“Anything that I can do to raise awareness and money to MS research, I want to be involved in,” Ledgerwood said.
Ledgerwood and friends Melissa Spinner, Jane Gerdhart and Rebecka Roesslet were four of the marchers participating in Saturday’s MS benefit march in Cosmopolitan Park. The event takes place in April and May annually all over the country. The event is designed to raise awareness and funds for MS research. Marchers form teams and make pledges to donate money themselves or through sponsors.
“Our fundraising for this chapter is $850,000,” said Heather Gaehle, volunteer for the National MS society and organizer of the Columbia march. “Last year we raised about $700,000.” The chapter is headquartered in St. Louis and is responsible for 90 counties from southern Missouri to eastern Illinois.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects approximately 400,000 people in the U.S., and 200 cases of MS are diagnosed every week, according to the National MS Society’s Web site. Each individual case is different. Some people lose their sight and ability to walk, and others experience numbness and short-term paralysis.
“That’s the thing with MS — it never affects two people the same way,” Krout says.
Krout said that she played off a lot of the symptoms as a part of getting older. She experienced numbness in her feet and hands and had problems with short-term memory loss and imbalance.
“I have bruises all over my legs from running into things all the time,” she said.
Kelly Faup, marching with her daughter, Kelly, and friends and family, was diagnosed with MS in 1996. She said she experiences numbness and temporary loss of control.
“I wake up some mornings and can’t walk, or my leg won’t move where I want it to,” she says.
The most common form of treatment involves steroid injections directly into the muscles, a very painful procedure that some MS patients have to go through either daily or weekly.
“I can’t do it; I’m really scared of needles,” Krout says. “In the beginning, my husband had to chase me around the house every time it was time for a shot.”
When Ledgerwood first found out her daughter had MS, she felt scared until she became more informed.
“There is a lot worse that could happen to your child if you think about it,” she said, “but this is also something (Krout) has to live with her entire life.”