Elk Grove Village resident Meghan Melone was diagnosed with MS in 2004, when she was just 14 years old. Being diagnosed at a young age was very difficult. While trick-or-treating during her first year of high school, Melone's feet went numb and by the next morning, she couldn't feel her thighs. In the days following, she became numb from the waist down and couldn't walk. Melone was scared but determined to find out what was happening to her body; a spinal tap soon revealed that she was living with MS.
"Being diagnosed with MS as a teenager was absolutely terrifying," said Melone. "One day I was busy being a kid--playing basketball and running all over the place--and the next I was facing a diagnosis that would change my life forever."
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Following her diagnosis, Melone searched for a neurologist who would agree to treat her. Because of her young age, many doctors saw her as a liability. When a patient is diagnosed with MS before the age of 18, the effects of the disease can be greatly unpredictable because the brain experiences vast changes due to puberty, making pediatric MS a more complicated diagnosis. Despite this, she soon found a willing doctor and began thinking about what her next steps would be.
"Once my MS diagnosis was confirmed, I decided to find the positive side of living with the disease," said Melone. "I know it's hard to see a positive side, but getting involved and finding the support of others helped me see that living with MS doesn't just mean I'm sick."
For Melone, finding support meant getting involved. In 2005 she formed her Walk MS team Ohana and on Sunday, May 5, she'll join hundreds of participants in Palatine at Harper College (1200 W. Algonquin Road) and thousands of other participants throughout Illinois at Walk MS 2013, the largest annual fundraiser of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter.
"Walk MS is where I connect. It's strange to say, but being diagnosed with MS has made me a better, stronger person," added Melone. "Being involved at Walk MS is an honor because now I help others see the positive side, too."
To participate in Walk MS 2013 as an individual, volunteer, or part of a team, visit walkMSillinois.org or call 1.800.344.4867.
The National MS Society addresses the challenges of each person affected by MS. To fulfill this mission, the Society funds cutting-edge research, drives change through advocacy, facilitates professional education, collaborates with MS organizations around the world, and provides programs and services designed to help people with MS and their families move forward with their lives.
The disease affects more than 20,000 people in Illinois and 2.1 million worldwide. For more information, visit MSIllinois.org.