3.9 min readPublished On: March 12, 2024

Living with MS in Minneola

The City of Minneola is about to kick-off its first event in an inaugural series aimed at raising money and bolstering support for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). These initiatives were sparked by Minneola City Clerk Kristine Thompson and City Clerk Assistant Kelly Wilson, who in working together, discovered they’re both living with MS.

“There is definitely an increase in MS in our communities,” says Aimee Markussen, local community coordinator for the National MS Society. “In my opinion, it has a lot to do with having more stress factors out there now.”

According to the National MS Society, the condition—a neurodegenerative disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system—is neither contagious nor genetic. In fact, many symptoms of MS are invisible, so you might not be aware of people around you living with the disease.

Kristine and Kelly say they’ve found common ground with several other colleagues living with MS, as well. Both women tell a similar story about receiving their diagnosis. They each noticed unusual symptoms that caused them to seek medical treatment. Kelly experienced tingling in her face and then one day the left side of her face went numb. She went to South Lake Hospital thinking she was having a stroke.

Kristine was going through a high stress time with reproductive issues and cancer testing. She experienced numbness from her feet to her torso that lasted a week. When the numbness came back, she thought it could be caused by recently discovered anemia.

Both women underwent neurological testing that resulted in MRI scans revealing the customary brain legions indicative of MS. Kristine faced an additional scare when she was told one of the lesions on her brain could be cancerous. That possibility was eventually ruled out.

Day-to-Day Challenges

“The scariest thing about MS for me is that you never know where the next lesion could pop up and what symptoms it may cause,” says Kristine. “Although I’m relatively symptom-free now, I worry about not being able to work some day because of cognitive deficits or vision loss due to MS.”

No two cases of MS are the same. “I’ve lived in Florida my whole life,” says Kelly, “but now I can’t tolerate the heat or extreme cold.”

Kristine says, “I’m not triggered by temperature. For me it’s anxiety. If I am under too much stress my hands might go numb.”

“Super fatigue is another part of the disease that people don’t always understand,” says Kelly. “I’m not just tired. When the fatigue strikes, I can’t move. I have to text Kristine that I can’t come into work, but she understands.”

“I actually got that super fatigue for the first time yesterday,” says Kristine. “It’s good to work with people who understand what you are going through.”

“It’s tough because Kristine and I are both task-oriented people. We don’t want sympathy; we look at these symptoms as an annoyance we have to deal with,” says Kelly.

Both women note that the City of Minneola is an extremely understanding and supportive employer. Kelly felt comfortable sharing her diagnosis in her interview, and they both feel supported on those days when they are not at their best.

Providing Support

“People are very supportive since I got my MS diagnosis, but many don’t know anything about the disease. One of the reasons we’re doing the 5K is to bring awareness to the community,” says Kelly.

Kelly and Kristine are working together to organize the City of Minneola’s first-ever MS Awareness 5K on Saturday, March 16 to coincide with the National MS Week. All proceeds from the event will go to the National MS Society to help people living with MS get the support they need, and also to help fund continuing research to find a cure.

Participants can choose to walk or run the 5K which will be held at the Minneola Athletic Complex. Members of the military who choose to participate will be competing for a separate trophy, sponsored by Orlando law firm Arias & Abbass. Kelly’s husband, a Marine, suggested a friendly competition to see which branch of the military is fastest. The winning branch will keep the trophy until next year’s race when it will be turned over to the new winner.

“The best way to support friends and loved ones living with MS is to walk with them, talk with them and let them know you are there to provide emotional support when they need it,” Aimee says. Check the National MS Society website to learn more about MS and find events in your community where you can show your support.

About the Author: Christine Andola

Christine Andola
With a bachelor’s degree in communication from the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, in 1990 Christine embarked on a blind journey to building a career. She moved through teaching in the inner city public schools, reporting for a weekly newspaper, writing user manuals and technical documentation at a software company, lobbying and public relations at the state level for national associations and marketing for professional services firms. Christine’s writing portfolio includes everything from newspapers to grant proposals. She has developed web content, written blogs, ghost-written professional journal articles and drafted ad copy. From technical writing to lifestyle feature pieces, Christine lives by the value of words. She enjoys learning about the people around her and sharing information in a way that resonates with readers.

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