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Wednesday

 

Hope Fund: MS did not take away one man's sense of purpose
















































Will.Dickey@jacksonville.com
Michael Allen advocates on behalf of multiple sclerosis research whenever he can. "I refuse to be insignificant," Allen says.

For the last 20 years, Michael Allen has battled the many symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The fatigue. The vision loss. The muscle pain. And, just as painful, the decades of memories that have been drifting away since he was 12 years old.

But Allen doesn’t resent his disease. He even considers it a blessing.

“While we could say that we’re upset with this whole MS diagnosis, I’m not,” Allen said. “Because it’s kind of like the story of Job in the Bible. God allowed certain things to happen to Job because he had such great faith.”

Today Allen lives with his wife, Jessica, and son, Giovanni. While his wife works as a nurse’s assistant, the family doesn’t have the money to move out of their apartment, which they fear is a poor influence on Giovanni, who is 9.

“We would love to somehow get of this building,” Allen said. “[It] is full of alcoholics and they throw parties every single night.”

Allen said the family is desperately trying to raise enough money for a security deposit on an apartment in an area that’s safer and “somewhere close to our church, too.”

Not only do the Allens want a safe environment for their son, away from the near constant partying of their neighbors, but their current apartment is on the second floor, making it difficult for Allen to get to his own front door.

Allen’s journey through MS started as a junior high student in South Daytona. Although the disease has affected his memory, he recalls the onset of his symptoms with clarity.

“I would run up the court and fall flat on my face suddenly,” Allen said. “There would be nothing I tripped over.”

Several years later, Allen began to go numb from the shoulders down.

After two weeks of extensive tests and neurological assessments, he received the diagnosis he both suspected and dreaded for years. Lesions on his brain confirmed that he had relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

He was 23.

“It made me want to end my life; I’ll say that,” said Allen, who added that he would often lapse into depression “thinking about having to do this for the rest of my life.”

Allen’s treatment for multiple sclerosis involves self-injectable interferon drugs to slow the progression of the disease and manage symptoms. These drugs, said Allen, are similar to chemotherapy in their side effects and some even require seeing an oncologist.

Other medications caused Allen to feel intense nausea or feel as though his skin was on fire — while another had a side effect that left scarring.

Still, Allen has remained determined to live life as fully as possible. One way he does that is by traveling with Jessica and Giovanni to mixed martial arts events. In between the matches, they talk to fellow spectators about MS and encourage them to donate to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. They have also set up tables at events to hand out bracelets and distribute fliers to inform the public about the disease.

Over the past several months alone, the family has traveled to seven events to advocate on behalf of MS research.

Allen spends most of his days at Anchor Faith Church, which has been a sanctuary for him spiritually. He is open about his Christianity and the principles that he lives by each day. Allen said his faith in Jesus allows him to be patient when it comes to dealing with symptoms and courageous in the face of adversity.

His sense of determination is as compelling as it is genuine.

“A lot of people with disabilities get swept under the rug,” Allen said. “But I refuse to be insignificant.”

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by JACKSONVILLE
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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