Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects 2 million people every year. It is not contagious or genetically inherited; however specialists have not found what causes MS nor have they developed a cure. An individual is diagnosed with MS when damage is discovered in two separate parts of their nervous system. MS is an autoimmune disease, which simply states that one’s body is attacking its good cells. The body starts to fight itself as if there was an infection present in the system.
Mrs. Robin Kelly’s body has under-gone nerve damage due to her body fighting Myelin, which is a protective layer around the axon or neuron. She was diagnosed with MS 4th of July weekend in 2006. It only affects her left side and whereas most people would have nerve numbness, Mrs. Kelly has super sensitive nerves. For example, when pool water is cold, her right foot will jolt, but regain its composure. Her left side however, will jolt uncontrollably causing her to be unable to enter the water any further. This reaction is referred as spasticity.
Only a year after her diagnosis, Mrs. Kelly and her husband joined the Board of Directors at Can Do Multiple Sclerosis (Can Do MS). As Co-Chairman for Can Do MS, Mr. and Mrs. Kelly have a system in place that they have followed for over 7 years; Mrs. Kelly does all the grunt work and Mr. Kelly facilitates the meetings every month.
In 1984, an Olympic skier, by the name of Jimmie Heuga, founded Can Do MS,formerly known as The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis. He was diagnosed in a time when medical treatment was not advanced and medical professionals advised him that he should quit all physical activity. As time went on Heuga realized that this was not right; there is no way he should have to quit what he loves and stop his life activities just because he has MS. That is how the name Can Do was created. He graciously said, that you should “focus on what you can do,” not what you cannot do. Mrs. Kelly uses his motto as words to live by. Whenever she becomes depressed or angry that she cannot do something, she reminds herself to “suck it up, you’re not dying. Others have bigger problems than you.” Therefore, she puts herself back together and focuses on the positive. She can still walk, even if it is not for as long as she would like.
The only time Mrs. Kelly has ever felt judged due to her condition is when she goes to galas or fancy parties, where she tries to wear fancy shoes. Even though the heel is not very tall, her balance still falters. Mrs. Kelly says she always has to be aware of her surroundings and never carries a drink with her, because she assumes people will think she is “drunk, sloppy, not aware and especially not proper.” She can keep her balance more easily when she is holding hands with her husband or holding onto someone nearby. Mrs. Kelly feels that she is too clingy sometimes, but she knows her husband understands.
The hardest event Mrs. Kelly can remember is telling her 12-year-old son in 2006 that she has MS. Her husband firmly told their son that she was not going to die, but her body would now act differently and that “mama will fall down, so we will pick her back up and keep going.” The last thing either of them expected to hear was their son say, “God has a special plan for you.” They never imagined their son would still have faith. It brings tears to her eyes every time she recalls that day. Her son is now 19-years-old and has come to terms with his mother having MS. Whenever he trips or becomes unbalanced he says, “Damn my MS.” Mrs. Kelly is happy that her family is comfortable joking around with her and do not treat her differently.
When asked, Mrs. Kelly agreed that there have been hidden blessings that have come with her MS. She has become more aware of her health and constantly wants to exercise in every way she can, because she wants to keep the strength she still has. There is so much people take for granted and being limited in some ways, Mrs. Kelly has come to appreciate life and all the things she can still do. She never understood why someone who was paralyzed would say the same thing until she was diagnosed with MS.
Mrs. Kelly wishes her family was more involved with the fight for MS; however she also knows that she has not given them the opportunity. Her parents have given sizable donations, but she has not given her sisters the same opportunity. In September, Mrs. Kelly is having a luncheon for the National MS Colorado Chapter and plans to invite her entire family. She does not want to shut anyone out, but wants everyone to help in any way they can, even if it is the annual MS Run the US.
There are “blessings in whatever God gives us, because he gives us all something.”