Nevada County chapter of organization fighting for a cure for multiple sclerosis | TheUnion.com

Nevada County chapter of organization fighting for a cure for multiple sclerosis

Nathalie Ennis heads up the Nevada County multiple sclerosis support group and has MS herself.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

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The Nevada County Chapter of The National Multiple Sclerosis Society meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the last Friday of the month in the community room of the Glenbrook Apartment Complex, 265 Sutton Way in Grass Valley. For more information or to join the Nevada County MS Walk team, email Nathalie Ennis at Na945thalie@hotmail.com. To learn more or register for Walk MS in Sacramento, visit www.nationalmssociety.org.

While still in her early 20s, Nathalie Ennis began to notice unusual changes in her body. She was becoming increasingly clumsy, and she began to experience a shooting pain down her spine and changes with her bladder.

In 2010, just shy of her 22nd birthday, Ennis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or MS, which is described as an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and body.

Damage to the myelin in the central nervous system, as well as nerve fibers, interfere with nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord, as well as other parts of the body. The disease commonly begins between the ages of 20 and 50 and is twice as common in women.

“My mom calls it the ‘snowflake disease’ because no one who has MS is the same,” said Ennis. “Every single case is different.”

Today, at age 30, Ennis is confined to a wheelchair and lives in a rural part of Grass Valley with the help of caregivers and family. But her physical limitations have not stifled her passion for reaching out and supporting others with the same disease.

As group facilitator for The Nevada County Chapter of The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Support Group, Ennis has made it her mission provide a safe, confidential environment for those with MS and their family members to share their experiences, learn about the latest research, hear from specialists, learn about local resources and swap information and tips. The group, ranging in age from 30 to 80, meets once a month in Grass Valley.

“Back in 2000, Phyllis Bright started the group when she felt like no one in the area wanted to talk about MS,” said Ennis. “The group took off — it became a great place for people to get together and talk about what we have in common. We talk about everything from natural healing remedies, such as Ayurveda and Qi Gong, to the kinds of western medicines we’re taking. We also feature guest speakers. In October, MS specialist Dr. John Schafer from Mercy San Juan Medical Center was here. We try to keep it exciting.”

This year for the first time members of the Nevada County Chapter of The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Support Group will be participating as a team at Walk MS, an annual charity walk that takes place in more than 550 locations, with more than 300,000 people participating annually. This year’s closest event is scheduled for April 6 in Sacramento.

Ennis and her teammates are encouraging community members to join them on their “walk or roll,” beginning on the west steps of the state capitol. Registration starts at 8, with the walk beginning at 9 a.m. According to information provided by the National MS Society, Walk MS is more than a fundraising event — it’s also designed for people to connect with others affected by MS and to learn more about the services and support offered by the National MS Society.

Routes are fully accessible, with distance options of 1 and 3 miles. Throughout the day, participants will receive support from volunteers to ensure the day goes smoothly. Those who are unable to attend also have the option of becoming a “virtual walker,” where those at home can also share in the experience and raise funds remotely.

Originating in 1988, Walk MS has since raised more than $920 million for the National MS Society, which helps to provide innovative programs, fund research and foster a supportive community for those affected by MS.

A recent study funded by the National MS Society has found that nearly one million people are living with MS in the United States, which is more than twice the original estimate reflected in a previous study. These new findings have underscored the importance of funding research for a cure, said Ennis.

But beyond the frenzy of the upcoming fundraiser, Ennis is quick to add that her immediate mission is make sure that anyone in Nevada County who is affected by MS is getting the support they need.

“Our support group has connected me with such an amazing community — it’s really about not being alone,” she said. “Heading up this group has been so rewarding — I know how important it is to have someone to talk to. You don’t have to explain a lot — we understand.”

To learn more about the Nevada County Chapter of The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Support Group or to join their MS Walk team, email Nathalie Ennis at Na945thalie@hotmail.com. To learn more or register for Walk MS in Sacramento, visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org.

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.


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