Hundreds take part in Multiple Sclerosis Walk in Capaha Park

Monday, April 20, 2009
Participants in the Multiple Sclerosis Walk start their 2-mile trek in Capaha Park on Sunday afternoon in Cape Girardeau. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com)

Tim Fowler's toes are numb, but they also hurt.

"Doesn't make sense, does it," he said, describing how multiple sclerosis affects his life.

Minutes later, about 350 people, including Fowler, started a two-mile trek around Capaha Park during Sunday afternoon's Multiple Sclerosis Walk.

Fowler said he was diagnosed last year with the disease, which attacks the central nervous system. Doctors estimated he went undiagnosed for ten years, leaving him with permanent nerve damage in his feet, he said. The disease, which can be disabling, affects people differently.

Fowler said he travels to St. Louis every three months for MRIs and blood tests. He said he wants to contribute to finding a cure and keep others from going undiagnosed.

"They can't find a cure if they don't have anyone to experiment on," he said.

With his three daughters in mind, Fowler said he is especially worried about how the disease affects younger people.

Fowler and Lisa Dawson, both of New Madrid, Mo., formed a team with friends and family. Dawson said they raised more than $1,500.

Dawson, who was diagnosed almost seven years ago, said she has changed her lifestyle, exercising more and eating healthier. She said she moves around easily, but some days are easier than others.

"There's so much that I can't do that I could before," she said. Fatigue sets in quickly and it is harder to complete tasks, she said.

This was the first event for Fowler and Dawson, but they said they would like to make it a yearly tradition and increase their fundraising efforts. Fowler's daughter Sarah, who helped organize the team, said she started researching ways to increase awareness after her father's diagnosis. She said the walk helped bring the family together to address the disease.

"It helped us talk about it," she said.

Sharon Hileman, community development manager for the Gateway Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said about 20 teams participated in the walk with the goal of raising $46,000.

Participants had the option of walking around the lagoon four times or twice around the entire park. The event also included face painting, music and a health fair. Hileman said the setup was rainy, but the weather held off for the event, which started at 1 p.m.

"The sky opened up and it turned beautiful," she said.

Midway through the course, Carrie Houston of New Madrid, took a break from the walk. Houston said she found out she had multiple sclerosis March 17. She started receiving daily injections two weeks ago to remedy numbness and tingling.

"There's been times where I had a weak leg and couldn't walk," she said.

Her team raised $950 from donations in three weeks, she said.

"Right after I was diagnosed, I thought this was a better time than any to jump in," she said.

She said being around others who share her experiences made it easier to cope.

"It's helped a lot to talk to others," she said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

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