Imagine waking up on a beautiful Saturday morning and as you think about rolling out of bed, nothing happens. You can’t move your arms or legs, no matter how hard you try you can’t get your body to listen to your brain. This is exactly what happens for the millions of Americans suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.
“It’s scary to not know how your body is going to react,” says Denise Trimpa, whose husband Tom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1987.
“Those first days were scary. We had no idea what was going on with Tom. What started out as tingling in his fingers and toes turned out to be MS and at that time there was very little known about the disease. We had a two year old and were facing an unknown disease. At the time there wasn’t even medication for the symptoms. Just advise to eat right and get plenty of rest, which is something that we should all be doing anyway, right?”
The Trimpas worked hard to understand the illness, and as medications became available, they did everything they could to participate in trials and hopefully find something that would slow the progression of the disease.
MS is a degenerative disease that attacks the myelin sheath, or covering of the nerves. As the disease progresses, this protective covering wears away and creates a short circuit effect, preventing messages sent by the brain from reaching the body. While efforts are being made to understand this disease, there is no identifiable cause and no cure for the disease.
“When the first medications came out in the mid-90’s we jumped at the chance to participate in the trials,” Trimpa said. “There were so many people who were waiting for this medicine that we were put into a sort of lottery and were blessed to be able to try the medicines. Even now, we try different treatments to find one that works. There is no way to stop, cure, or repair the damage, but if we can slow the progression we will do that.”
Since the nervous system is so intricate, the symptoms of MS vary widely from person to person.
“One of the scary things is that MS is so different from person to person,” Trimpa said. “However, people need to know that a positive diagnosis is not a death sentence. You can still live your life, you just have to make modifications. Tom is a very active person, with a big personality. We just learned that instead of snow skiing we went snow mobiling, or instead of water skiing we went boating. We work hard to manage the symptoms and understand that each day is a different day.”
Over their 40 year marriage, Tom and Denise have been reminded over and over how important their relationship with one another is.
“We don’t refer to it as Tom’s disease, WE have MS, because it affects both of us. We work together to keep each other hopeful. Depression can be a major part of dealing with MS, and we work hard to keep each other hopeful.”
Another source of support and comfort comes from their work with other MS patients. The Trimpas have both been very active in raising money and awareness for the local MS Society Chapter. Their fundraising helps give them something to focus on and allows them to network with other people experiencing the same challenges.
“When we all get together, the first thing that we ask is ‘how are you affected by MS?’ Some are the patient, some it’s their spouse, or sister or friend who has it. We talk about our experiences and discuss ways that we overcome various challenges.”
The MS Society has been an invaluable resource in the Trimpas fight. They provide support and information about research that’s going on close to home and around the country.
“We work with the MS Center of Excellence in Oklahoma City and they’re constantly doing research and developing new treatments,” Trimpa said. “We’ve tried everything: shots, physical therapy, pills. And we’ll continue to try and raise money for more research until they find a cure.”
The hope for a cure drives the Trimpas and others like them to continue raising awareness and hope for others affected by the disease. One of the MS Society’s biggest campaigns is the annual MS Walk for a Cure. This walk brings people together from across the Texoma area to show their support for family and loved ones experiencing MS. Their fundraising efforts include silent auctions, donations by local businesses and residents, and the amazing support of community volunteers who prepare the event each year. This year’s walk will be held on April 20th at Elmer Thomas Park. Community members wishing to participate, may call Donna Anderson at Red River Federal Credit Union at 580-536-5232 for more details.
For more information about MS, please visit the National MS Society webpage at www.nationalmssociety.org.