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Walk of life

Helen Turner, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about 20 years ago, sits in her Alta Sierra home with her daughter, Natalie, 13. Natalie will walk in the MS Walk 2002 in Grass Valley on April 13 to raise funds to cure the illness.
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For nearly the first half her life, Helen Turner never thought twice about standing in a long line or walking a few miles.

On April 13, her daughter, Natalie, 13, plans to do the walking for her.



Turner has been named ambassador in the Grass Valley Helping Hand MS Walk 2002, an annual event to raise money for the Mountain Valley Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.




Helen Turner, who was diagnosed with the illness when she was 26, has lived nearly half her life with the disease, a debilitating condition of the central nervous system that can lead to numbness in the arms and legs, loss of balance or memory, and muscle weakness.

The condition forced Helen Turner to quit her job as a manager at the Holbrooke Hotel, and to depend on the kindness of others.

Her illness hasn’t stopped her from living a full life, however.

“To have had this illness for 20 years; I think I’m doing fantastic,” she said Monday from her Alta Sierra home. “I see people in wheelchairs, and then I see myself. I think having a positive attitude has a lot to do with how I view my life.”

Natalie Turner, a freshman at Bear River High School, has never seen her mother free of the pain that MS causes.

Nevertheless, she feels her mother can hold her own.

“I feel so good, because she’s done something for me, and now I’m going to do something for her,” said Natalie, who plans to walk at least five miles and have a cadre of friends do the rest.

“My mom deals with the disease very well,” she said. “She doesn’t complain or wallow in self-pity. She does everything she can.”

Helen Turner can walk and stand for short periods, but washing a sinkful of dishes requires at least two people. If she stands too long, her legs turn to mush.

She uses a motorized cart to get around grocery stores and has used a wheelchair to navigate Disneyland.

Beth Werts, who’s directing the pledge drive for the walk, said she hopes to debunk myths about MS by staging the event.

“It’s an educational opportunity,” she said. “MS has been termed an invisible disease because many of the people who have it simply look fatigued or really tired.

“But it’s a chronic disease that never goes away. You live with it the rest of your life, and that’s the key. You live with it. MS doesn’t kill you.”

The MS Society was founded in 1946 to study the disease that normally shows symptoms in people between 20 and 40 years old. The walk raised $400,000 for research in 2001, and Werts is hoping to raise $450,000 this year.

The money goes into research on the cause of the disease.

“We’re much closer to finding a cure than we were 10 years ago,” Werts said.

In the meantime, Helen Turner, her husband, Doug, and Natalie prepare for Natalie’s walk.

“Natalie’s learned a lot because I’m her mom,” Helen Turner said. “I’m just really proud of her.”


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