SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Multiple sclerosis awareness week kicks off March 7th, as a way to raise money to find a cure.
About 30 years ago, Karen Johnson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since her diagnosis she’s made it her mission to help find a cure as an advocate district leader for the National MS Society.
“My passion is advocacy, which is of course, part of the reason why I spend all that time in Washington, D.C. every year, knocking on our doors at the Senate and the house, and our South Dakota delegation has been enormously helpful in always backing so much of the MS legislation,” Johnson said.
The disease impacts not only Johnson’s life, but her family’s too, with her sister and cousin also being diagnosed.
“My cousin was bedridden and was very seriously ill with the disease. And, she passed away about five years ago now, and it was very, a devastating disease,” Johnson said.
“It can affect either the brain, the spinal cord or the optic nerve. So it can bring a gamut of symptoms, including visual symptoms, sensory symptoms, like numbness, tingling. Weakness of the legs, problems with bladder, problems with the speech,” Dr. Fanny Jaquez said.
Dr. Fanny Jaquez, a neurologist at Sanford Health, says raising awareness is a crucial piece to getting closer to a cure.
“We have had a lot of progress in this field with, up to this time, close to 20 disease modifying therapies, which has really change the perspective of this disease,” Jacquez said.
The strides in research that has brought forward new therapies is exciting to Johnson, but her main goal still is finding a cure.
“It’s a little bittersweet actually, because I’m progressive and there are no drugs available for progressive, at least not my version of progressive,” Johnson said.
When COVID hit, MS fundraising events were cancelled, resulting in a loss of funding for the much needed research. That’s why Johnson is speaking out now, hoping to educate everyone on the disease and boost necessary funding.
“I would hope that you would open your heart. To go online and look up the national multiple sclerosis society’s website and donate and help us find a cure because together we are stronger,” Johnson said.
Mayor Paul TenHaken proclaimed March 7th to the 13th as National MS Awareness week in Sioux Falls. A virtual walk will be held on May 15th.