This story was written for BuzzFeed and the National MS Society by Aly Greengrass, a 15-year-old whose father has MS.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an awful disease that messes up the nervous system, making it difficult for the brain to pass signals on to the body. It causes people with MS to experience a wide range of symptoms from vertigo and headaches to paralysis. Basically, it sucks, and I wish that it had never entered my family.
When I was in third grade, my father was diagnosed with MS. When my parents told me, I really couldn’t comprehend what they were saying. I had no idea what MS was, or how it would affect my father and our family. All I understood was that my father had a disease, one that would cause him pain.
I was freaking scared of how that disease could affect him. In all honesty, I still am scared. Thankfully, medicine is helping prevent my dad’s MS from progressing, but because the disease is so unpredictable, I am terrified that one day I will wake up and my father won’t be able to move his legs or will lose his vision. It’s still tough to see him go through bad days where he’s too fatigued to get out of bed or experiences horrible headaches, vertigo, and pain.
I really wanted to help my dad feel better, but being a third-grader, I didn’t know what I could do. While there is medicine to help slow the progression of MS, researchers still haven't found a cure. That’s why raising awareness and money is so imperative.
A few months after my father’s diagnosis, my mom found out about Walk MS in New Jersey. We decided that we weren’t going to sit around and let MS control us, and that was when Team Greengrass was formed.
In our first year, we didn’t know what to expect from the walk — we didn’t know how it would work or how our family and friends would respond. But then, an amazing thing happened: My parents helped me write an email that was sent out to family and friends, and before we knew it, we had raised over $25,000, and people that I didn’t even know were reaching out to donate money to Team Greengrass. Our local newspaper even wrote an article about my fundraising!
Then came the walk itself. We were still very nervous because we just didn’t know what the walk would be like, but we did know that, going forward, we were going to be part of the solution. One of my dad’s friends created a kick-ass Team Greengrass logo (which my dad now has a tattoo of — sorry, Grandma!) and we had some Team Greengrass shirts made. When we showed up, it seemed like almost everyone that we knew had come out to support us. It was an amazing feeling to be part of something so positive and to see that our family wasn’t going to go through this alone!
Since that first year, we have done six additional Walks MS events, six Bike MS rides, MuckFest MS mud runs, and even a race to the top of Rockefeller Plaza — running up 66 flights of stairs! There are Team Greengrass T-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, car magnets, dog leashes and collars, baseball hats, hockey jerseys, and more! Nothing is cooler than walking into a store or restaurant and seeing someone that you don’t even know wearing a Team Greengrass shirt!
Team Greengrass has raised over $150,000 for the National MS Society since 2008. We’ve won awards for the most money raised and the best T-shirts, and we even have a team slogan: “Suck it MS!”
My dad stays extremely positive despite giving himself injections three times per week. Where others might stop or sulk, my dad pushes on. He started playing ice hockey this year (despite not knowing how to skate) and has written an article on the benefits of exercise for MS patients. He has also worked with people newly diagnosed with MS to help them with the difficult transition period after their initial diagnosis.
He still gets his symptoms — particularly when the seasons change. He still takes his medicine, and on occasion has to go to the hospital for intravenous medicine to make his symptoms more tolerable. But, as he says, “It’s not all bad — at least we get a handicapped parking permit!”
Please join us this year in Jersey City on April 18 as Team Greengrass will join thousands of other walkers in continuing to walk for a cure and, who knows, you might even get a Team Greengrass shirt of your own! If you can’t join us, you can always donate at http://www.TeamGreengrass.com.
Click here to learn more about events that support the National MS Society.
Oh yeah, and suck it MS!