People living with multiple sclerosis in Southwest Colorado and beyond who need help with funds for building projects or transportation, or who just want to join in exercise classes or gather for social events with others who have MS, are encouraged to reach out to the Southwest Colorado Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“We are basically wanting to reach the multiple sclerosis community, and we just don’t have a way of finding out who they are,” said Lynn Tanner, vice president of the society. “We can’t go to neurologists and get names of people that have MS, but we know there are lots of MS patients.”
The society, which is based in Durango, has fewer than 50 members, but based on conversations with local neurologists, believes there are at least 100 people living with MS in Durango alone.
But even those who are counted among the membership may not be fully aware of all the society has to offer.
“It’s hard for them to respond, come to support group meetings that we have, and social hours when we’re trying to reach out to engage with them to see how we can help,” Tanner said. “So basically we just want to build awareness of the community for the MS people.”
The society offers financial assistance for home remodels to fit the needs of people with MS, which could include an access ramp, which it recently funded for someone in Farmington, or bathroom remodels. It will also pay for transportation costs.
“We don’t offer medication support because it’s not feasible,” Tanner said. “But if you’ve got to see a neurologist in Denver, or way far away, we will pay for your transportation. We’re here to offer financial support.”
The society also hosts a monthly support group where people with MS can share what’s happening with them with people who may have experienced those same things and can share what they did to help themselves that may also work for others.
“It’s a quiet, confidential place to share thoughts and ideas,” Tanner said. “And then once a month we plan a social hour where we can come and have fun, you know, not necessarily come specifically to talk about MS, but come have a time to gather and just be with other people.”
For those unfamiliar with multiple sclerosis, it is a disease that impacts the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, which make up the central nervous system, according the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It can strike anyone at any age. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but the disease triggers the immune system to attack the central nervous system. The resulting damage to the protective layer insulating wire-like nerve fibers disrupts signals to and from the brain.
The interruption of signals causes unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis. Everyone’s experience with MS is different.
Tanner was 37 years old and living in the Dallas area when MS struck her. It was shortly after she had her last child and was out walking him in a stroller when one leg began dragging.
“And I’ve always been fit,” Tanner said. “Then I went for a run and I was just dragging my leg. And people were coming up to me wanting to know if I was OK. And then I was doing a Jazzercise class and people were coming up to me and going, ‘Man, have you been drinking?’ It was no fun.”
Tanner, who is now 64, leads the Be Fit Be Able class, which focuses on seated exercises. The class is open to anyone, not just those with MS, and takes place at the Durango-La Plata County Senior Center. Tanner credits good eating habits and exercise for allowing her to remain medication-free for 3½ years without suffering any relapses or physical decline.
“I’m not using a walker or a wheelchair or anything like that,” she said. “So to me it’s the fact that I’ve taken care of myself, I think that’s what’s helped. Exercise is important for everybody, not just the MS community. So for about an hour we work out and have fun. It also helps to give the MS patients, and others as well, a great sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.”
Amy Stuck has lived with MS for 30 years and has participated in society activities off-and-on since 2003. She is currently a board member.
“It’s been great,” Stuck said. “They are always there for support. It’s a great resource, especially when you are new to the area. There have always been some great programs. We used to do a lot with adoptive sports.”
The society connected Stuck with the Breckenridge outdoor education program among other things.
“I would encourage people to contact them and just let them know what you need,” Stuck said. “You may look at the website and not really know if there’s anything for you, because maybe they don’t mention the sports program or the adaptive sports, but they can always get something going for you. They welcome any suggestions.”
For more information visit: https://www.swcmss.org/ or call Lynn Tanner at 214-934-4399