Multiple Sclerosis is a terrifying thing. MS is a disease in which a person's immune system begins to attack his or her own central nervous system, resulting in any or all of a wide spectrum of neurological issues ranging from physical debilitation to loss of vision to loss of speech to loss of cognitive function. At its worst, MS leaves its sufferers virtually trapped within their own bodies.
Not a great deal is really known about the causes of MS, and at present there is no known cure. Continued research has helped the medical community become better at treating patients with MS, but current treatments still only manage symptoms. More work needs to be done to pin down the causes and finally find a cure, but this work requires funding.
I care about MS because, once upon a time, I was tested for it myself as my doctor tried to help me find the cause for inexplicable numbnesses, discomfort, and pain I was experiencing, and still do on occasion experience. We've never been able to determine exactly why I have the symptoms I do (although we feel certain stresses, combined with depression and OCD, both of which I have been diagnosed with, are the most likely culprits), but I was fortunate in that my test for Multiple Sclerosis came back negative.
Many others are not so fortunate. According to the National MS Society, almost half a million people in this country live with MS, with nearly 200 new cases being diagnosed weekly. Worldwide, there are estimated to be almost 2.5 million cases. In June, I posted here about Exene Cervenka's announcement that she had been diagnosed with MS. I know the fear I experienced waiting for my test results; I cannot imagine how someone feels upon receiving the news that their test had a positive result.
Recently, a high school classmate posted a link on her Facebook page to the website of an non-profit organization, MSRuntheUS Inc. MSRuntheUS is, in reality, one person. Ashley Kumlien decided she wanted to do something to raise both awareness and, hopefully, donations, for MS. Her mother, Jill, has been battling MS for the past 26 years, and is Ashley's inspiration.
Ashley is a avid runner, with a specific love for long-distance running. She has taken it upon herself to run quite a long distance indeed: 3,200 miles! Starting in San Francisco, CA, Ashley intends to spend about 6 months running an average of 20 to 30 miles a day, 6 days a week, until she has crossed the country and arrived in New York City. She hopes her efforts will help raise funds through both sponsorships and donations - funds that can be used in MS research.
Toward that end, she created MSRuntheUS Inc., set up her website, and set up a Facebook page so that people can follow her progress. She also hopes folks will help her non-profit win Intel's Vote for a Cause campaign on Facebook, where the winning non-profit will receive $50,000 in co-branded advertisement. If you are on Facebook, you can help her garner enough votes to take the prize. It's best to let Ashley herself explain that process, so please become a fan of her page and watch the videos she has there explaining how you can help. (If you are not on Facebook, please go to Ashley's website to learn about other ways you can support her cause.)
When I learned of Ashley's efforts, thoughts of my own brush with MS and the folks I have known personally who struggle with the disease compelled me to want to help spread the word. I hope you will all consider helping out in any way you can, whether through monetary donation, helping Ashley gain the votes she needs to win the Vote for a Cause contest, or by spreading the word to as many people as you can. No help you offer is too little.