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MS Awareness Week Serving To Educate The Public On The Oft-Misunderstood Disease
3/5/2014 2:45:39 PM

Kristie Salerno Kent
By Damion Smalls

The autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS) affects millions around the world, yet is hard to describe according to the common person. Its symptoms aren’t always overt, how one falls victim to it is unclear, and treatments associated with it can vary depending on the case. Getting the word out to the public and educating them on the topic of MS is the endgame for the month of March. March 3-9 is known as MS Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The theme is MS Kills Connection >< Connection Kills MS.

Kristie Salerno Kent, a MS ambassador who lives with the disease, was in town this past weekend for the Charleston Challenge Walk MS 2014. She spoke at the event, which included a 50 mile walk spread across three days, from February 28 to March 2. The participants went through historic Charleston and the Isle of Palms on their trek. She seemed eager to advance the discussion of MS to anyone who had questions about it.

Kent was 26 when she was diagnosed with the disease. MS is known in its circles as a “robber of youth” as many of its victims are in their 20’s or 30’s when they start to develop symptoms. Kent said that she attempted to hide her ailment while in college but eventually decided to face it head on, which she noted as key in the healing process. MS has been a “rollercoaster ride” for her.

MS damages the central nervous system and is incurable at this time. It can affect a person’s vision, balance, mood, energy level, amongst other things. Its complications lead to a life full of doctor’s visits and medications. Exercise, a healthy diet, and brain activities are encouraged by health care professionals to help fight MS conditions from getting worse but they are still many mysteries on how to best treat the disease.

Kent, a Music major in her time at Syracuse University, uses her talents to connect with people. She still performs and writes songs, inspiring those like her who go through the daily struggles of MS. She produced a video called “The Show Must Go On”, which highlighted the lack of knowledge people have about the disease. Instead of staying frustrated, she has risen above for the greater good and became a voice for the voiceless.

In her book, “DreaMS: My Journey With MS”, Kent gives advice to people with MS and details her initial denials and hiding of symptoms. Her personal experiences are meant to give others the courage to stand up and accomplish their dreams in the face of obstacles in their path. A mother of two young children, Kent has sage input on adversity and how to determination can help combat it.

The debilitating effects of MS have not stopped Kent from touring the country and offering her support while motivating her listeners. Kent battles fatigue and body pain induced by MS to get her point across. She has several tips for those with MS such as develop good relationships with the doctors/neurosurgeons that care for them, cultivate a strong support team to lean on in hard times, and find ways to better their life.

Several events around the country are planned for MS Awareness Week. Orange is the color of MS will be worn by its supporters. People have been asked to turn their Facebook profiles orange as well. For the week, the hashtag #MSConnection is being encouraged for use in tweets and posts. Locally, letters to the editor will be shared on the National MS Society, Greater Carolina’s Facebook page. Pictures taken wearing orange or celebrating MS Awareness Week will be posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Social media is playing a major part in connecting the country in the MS debate.

Multiple sclerosis is not as well-known as cancer, diabetes, or AIDS, but does not make it any less significant. I have dealt with the disease my entire life as my mother has the condition. She was in her late twenties when she was first diagnosed. She has had walking and balance problems for as long as I can remember. My memories of my mother all include her being affected by MS. Despite the numbless in her leg(s) and constant fatigue, she rarely has made any excuses for any shortcomings that MS may grant her. She is the strongest person I know. My mother worked for over 30 years in a 9 to 5 job while taking care of three kids along with a supportive husband.

People like her and Kristie Salerno Kent should give assurance to people suffering from MS that if you don’t stop the fight, MS will not stop you. March is MS Awareness Month. Join the discussion.

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