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Out of bad comes good: three MS stories

Janice Perkins, Lynn Long, and Calvin Foster

Lynn Long was standing beside his car just after showing a piece of property to a client on Battlefield Parkway in Fort Oglethorpe when his leg gave out. Days later a doctor told him he had multiple sclerosis.

"I was mad," says Long. "I thought the doctor was crazy."

Long walked out of the physician’s office and ignored his increasing symptoms for nearly a year. When it became apparent that something really was wrong, he found another doctor who sent him to the University of Alabama Medical Center for a thorough exam.

Long says he couldn’t believe he might have MS. "Everything was going my way. I was making good money as a real estate agent. I had just been elected chairman of the first Catoosa County Board of Commissioners. Life was good. Why would God do this to me?"

But the original diagnosis proved correct. "My left leg kept buckling," says Long. "If I wasn’t close to something I could hang onto, I’d fall." That was in 1993. Since then, Long’s attitude about his condition has changed tremendously.

"I thought I had the world under control. But MS put things in perspective for me. It made me realize God is in control. It brought me inner peace and gave me a chance to relax and enjoy my trip through life."

MS affects around 400,000 people in the United States – or 1 out of every 800 – and 2.3 million worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It’s generally considered an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord and disrupts signals to other parts of the body, impairing function in a wide variety of ways.

No one knows what causes MS, and there are 30-40 other diseases that mimic it, which makes it hard to diagnose. For Calvin Foster, the diagnosis came from a spinal tap.

"I was home alone one day," says Foster, "and the phone rang, but I couldn’t move my legs to get up and answer it."

Foster says he hadn’t had any symptoms before that incident. When his wife got home, she called for an ambulance. "I stayed overnight in the hospital and walked out the next day," says Foster. But Foster, who had served in the military in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and had owned two businesses, found himself quickly deteriorating physically after his hospital stay.

"Between June 2006 and February 2007," says Foster, "I went from using a cane to crutches to a walker to a wheelchair. My legs just wouldn’t cooperate."

Yet Foster considers MS a blessing. "I got lemons and I made lemonade. This disease has freed me up to do full-time what I was doing just part time for years." Foster is referring to the time he spends ministering to residents of seven area nursing homes and patients at three local hospitals.

"I visit with people, pray with them. Sometimes I take them treats or things to help them keep occupied. MS has given me the time to help people in this way, because I can’t work now."

Both Foster and Long say their wives have been bedrocks of support. Early in Long’s MS journey, he and a friend, Bill Brown, who also had MS, started a support group through the National MS Society. "I went to every meeting," says Long’s wife, Linda. "I wanted to understand what Lynn was dealing with and it was good to get to know other people and know you weren’t alone."

MS afflicts nearly three times as many women as men. Janice Perkins experienced her fist symptoms at work. "One half of my face was numb and a lady at work said I might have had a light stroke."

Perkins went to see her doctor who suspected she had MS and referred her to a neurologist who confirmed it.

"I started to have balance problems and I was falling down," says Perkins. "It was hard, but I kept working for two more years in quality control at Owens-Brockway in Rossville." She wanted to get in the 25 years she needed to retire, she says, and would have worked far beyond that, but her symptoms were worsening.

After one bad spell, Perkins ended up at a nursing home for 45 days to see if physical therapy would help. "I cried a lot," she says, "because I really wanted to go home. But they were wonderful. They helped me strengthen my legs and taught me how to walk better."

Perkins, who coordinated the collection of prizes to give away for the cruise-in that used to take place on LaFayette Road in Fort Oglethorpe, says MS can be frustrating. "I like to stay busy and be on the go, but I can’t drive anymore because my feet get numb. I stay home a lot and clean the house, where I can take breaks when I need to, and I like to do word puzzles."

One great source of support, Perkins says, is her husband, Larry. "He’s been so good to me. When I was at the nursing home, he came every day when he got off work and spent the evening with me. When I got back home it took a couple of weeks before I could manage on my own. Larry went out and got me breakfast every day before work and a friend stayed with me till he got home again. I’ve been lucky to have some really good people in my life."

The most important thing, Perkins says, is to take initiative. "You can’t just sit back and accept your disability. You have to get up and say ‘I can do this’ and take control of it, or it can be real bad."

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

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