When sitting on the sidelines is not an option

Written by on May 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Michelle Dickson thought the MS Challenge Walk was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Then she realized that's no longer an option.

I recently made an unexpected decision to register for this year's MS Challenge Walk, 3-day, 50-mile option on Cape Cod. I say "unexpected" because I anticipated the Cape MS Challenge Walk I proudly completed in 2003 to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. That changed late last year after receiving continuing news that too many of the volunteers activists I have worked with closely were experiencing a changing, progressive course in their disease. Some with primary and secondary progressive MS were now facing other significant underlying health challenges.

Sarah, an extraordinary chapter volunteer and MS activist, inspired my decision to walk this year. Sarah has completed the chapter's MS Challenge Walk every year since its inception with a team of family and friends. Having supported Sarah, I knew I could not simply cheer her on or donate this time. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option for me this year. I do not have MS, and I can walk without difficulty — yet I do not take this for granted. The totality of the impact of primary and secondary progressive MS is both professional and at times unexpectedly personal.

As an MS activist, I know meaningful strides made collectively improve people's lives, one step at a time. MS Challenge walkers are truly activists, too. Advancing public policies that address gaps in community supports and removing barriers to health care for those with more progressed forms of MS is critical. Funding for biomedical research and daily support is just as vital and additional funding is needed. All of us collectively are contributing toward this goal. While a treatment or medication for primary progressive MS remains elusive, the progress in recent years is very encouraging. I want in some small way to expedite this process and provide additional support to individuals facing progressed MS.

I am honored to join the Sarah's Sponsors team which includes Abby & Jamie — two MS colleague activists! My personal focus and motivation is progressive MS and the individuals who inspire me facing the challenges of disease progression.

I thank everyone for their commitment to this event and I hope I have the opportunity to meet many of you along the route in September!

Michelle has been a staff member for the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society since 2000. She currently serves as the Director of Public Policy Advocacy and works with volunteer activists and lawmakers in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. She most recently lead the chapter's delegation at the 22nd annual MS Public Policy Conference in Washington D.C.

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