Nearly 2.3 million people have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My mother happens to be one of those millions. She has been a gymnastics (tumbling and trampoline) and cheer coach for the better part of two decades. She started her own team nearly 14 years ago. She’s dedicated her life to coaching athletes, serving the Detroit community, and empowering young people to become their best selves. She truly is my hero. She will never say it for herself, but because of her, my dad and brother, and the team of coaches and parents, thousands of lives have been changed.
So why do I share this? Why does this matter beyond it being personal to me? She was diagnosed with MS years ago. I think my earliest memory of it affecting her care from when I was in sixth grade and she spent several days in the hospital. Now, it hasn’t stopped her from coaching and I don’t think it will anytime soon, but here’s what it has done. The hard days look like dizziness and blurred vision, extreme fatigue, tingling and/or numbness for hours on end, an inability to handle anything that is too hot or too cold, and a steroid shot once a day. On good days it means a day full of coaching. It means volunteer and service projects in the community. It means caravanning with 50 or 60 people to local, regional, and national competitions. It means participating in the MS walk in Detroit with your entire team walking alongside you year after year. It means giving young people and families a positive outlet through sports. It means being at your best with the support of loved ones. It means changing lives.
I’ve shared the cause and now I’ll share the adventure – 3 months 7 continents all to create awareness for Multiple Sclerosis. In 14 months, my graduate work will be complete and I’ll have several months to decide what to do next. However, fourteen months from now, I’ll leave on this adventure. You see, MS is a disease that affects the central nervous system – specifically the brain, spinal chord, and optic nerves. To live with MS is a daily challenge of willpower and strength. It is a challenge my mother takes on daily, and does so like a gladiator entering the arena day after day. Millions of people around the world do the same. For me – three months of travel may look like the adventure of a lifetime, and I’m sure it will be, but this journey will be one of service and advocacy. For three months, I’ll visit places to advocate and fundraise for those with MS and to complete some act of service in a local community. Given that Antarctica is virtually uninhabited, I will go there as a test of mental and physical fortitude; one that sheds light on the strength it takes to endure MS for years.
Over the next fourteen months, I’ll be planning, training, learning, advocating, and doing all I can to prepare for this journey of advocacy and adventure. I hope you follow the adventure.