Mary McFarland and her son, Patrick McFarland, are taking the next step in their fight against MS – the annual “Walk MS” that’s taking place this Sunday in Corning.
Multiple sclerosis, commonly referred to simply as “MS,” is a disease in which a person’s immune system attacks the fatty material, called myelin, that protects the body’s nerve fibers. It is often disabling and chronic. When these nerve fibers are damaged or destroyed, the central nervous system’s abilities and processes are disrupted and sometimes stopped completely. When the central nervous system isn’t functioning properly, it can affect a person’s brain, resulting in neurological symptoms such as cognitive or emotional changes, the spinal cord, affecting a person’s ability to move, and the optic nerves in the eyes, causing vision problems or dizziness. Other symptoms include fatigue, bladder and bowel problems, muscle spasms, weakness, numbness and tingling, and vary widely in frequency and intensity for each patient.
Mary was diagnosed 13 years ago. Her son and her husband have been taking care of her ever since, a role reversal that has proved difficult for Patrick.
“It’s really hard from an emotional standpoint watching someone who you look up to taking that deep dive into some place that’s really hard and debilitating,” Patrick said. “You never want to see someone you love suffer and sadly that’s what this disease does, it causes a lot of suffering.”
“I loved taking care of him when he was little, he was my everything,” Mary said. “Now he takes care of me when I need it, and I definitely love that.”
She needs help with simple tasks such as getting dressed and eating. She’s lost the ability to walk, the use of her left hand, and one of her eyes is going bad.
“It’s very hard, the slow progression of watching someone you love slowly get worse and worse and worse,” Patrick said.
But the hardest part for both of them is not knowing what comes next.
“I’m most scared of the unknown,” Patrick said.
“I’m slowly losing things not every day, but through the years[…]just not knowing, what it’s gonna be tomorrow,” Mary said.
The future may be uncertain, and scary, but fortunately for now, they can look forward to the near future, like spending the Fourth of July with their entire family at Seneca Lake.
“We cook out, we have fun, we watch the fireworks, we go for boat rides, skiing, tubing,” Patrick said.
And, of course, they’re looking forward to participating in Walk MS for the 8th time.
“We do see people from year to year that we know and recognize and you get to see them and see what their progression is like, maybe they had a break in their diagnosis or they’ve been getting new treatments and it’s really nice to see the positive sides of it and the support from the community is huge, especially with a disease that is as severe as this, seeing people come and helping you and supporting you that’s a huge morale booster,” Patrick said.
Walk MS is starting at 8:30 a.m. at Corning-Painted Post High School on Sunday, May 19. To register for the race online, click here.
To make a donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, click here.