Two longtime volunteers with the MS Society were recently recognized for their commitment to providing support to others with multiple sclerosis.
Susan Brown and Carol Ryding were presented with plaques for their services at a special luncheon with the local support group last month.
Both women agree that the group has been instrumental throughout their journeys with the disease. It has enabled friendships to form with other people who understand the unpredictable and varying symptoms they all face.
When Brown was diagnosed with MS 34 years ago, she was a young wife and working mother of two children.
“I was hospitalized because they thought I had a stroke,” Brown said. “It progressed and I was diagnosed with MS with a year.”
Brown continued to work in the school district as a teacher’s assistant for the year, but decided it was best to return home to concentrate on raising her family. Three years later, she attended her first meeting with the MS Society and walked out as a member of the executive. She has been involved ever since.
During the early years, Brown was an integral part of organizing the MS Walk fundraiser, along with Carol Nuttall. That is how she met Ryding and for the past 13 years, the two have put in countless hours of volunteer work together.
Diagnosed in 2002, Ryding was also working in the school district as a full-time teacher. She was forced to scale down her hours to half time and joined the MS group in search of support.
“I didn’t know anything about MS,” Ryding said. “I am lucky to have friends who have been there 100 per cent, but they didn’t know anything about it either. I have discovered (with the group) that it is great to have speakers come in, but it is also great to just be able to sit and talk with others who understand. I like to do a lot and I have learned to listen to my body and understand when I need to rest.”
“We each have our own ways of coping and it is interesting to hear everyone’s means,” Brown said.
Brown said the group has changed over the years from an independent organization funded by bingo. It was able to purchase equipment, provide workshops and fund several community infrastructure enhancements. Now it caters mainly to support and self-care.
“It is helpful to be able to talk and have a place to vent with people who understand why you’re having a down day,” Brown said.
Brown received her 30-year plaque, while Ryding was presented with hers for 13 years of service.