Woman with MS to join others in walk

Saturday event to raise money for services, research

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter


photoColleen Coy


If you go

• What: Walk MS, an event benefitting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Oregon Chapter, which serves Oregon and Southwest Washington. Money raised will support direct services for people with MS and their families, as well as research.

• When: 9 a.m. registration, 10 a.m. walk Saturday.

• Where: Esther Short Park, 301 W. Eighth St., Vancouver.

• Information: Walk MS.

Twelve months ago, Colleen Coy was undergoing tests to determine the cause of tingling in her feet and left hand.

In the weeks that followed, Coy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And in the months that followed, her health deteriorated, leaving her unable to walk and crippled by anxiety.

Today, Coy is walking again, even doing yoga. She’s changed her diet, cutting out soda pop and adding more natural foods. And she’s staying as stress-free as possible.

The multiple sclerosis diagnosis changed her life, she said, and her transformation in the past year changed it even more.

“I wouldn’t be as good today if I hadn’t been an advocate for myself,” the 42-year-old said.

When Coy was diagnosed, her doctor put her on medication to manage the disease. The medication wasn’t working, and her doctor wasn’t willing to change the prescription, she said.

So she spent the summer unable to walk without assistance, and worried she would lose her job and health insurance.

“The disease was real active, and the medication wasn’t helping,” Coy said.

In December, she stopped taking the medication and found a new doctor.

Now, she’s on medication that returned her mobility and her life.

“If people look at my situation and see how bad things were most of last year,” Coy said, “I want it to help people to know that it’s OK to question their doctor and get another opinion.”

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. MS is caused by damage to the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. The nerve damage is caused by inflammation from the body’s immune cells attacking its nervous system, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates about 400,000 Americans are living with MS.

This weekend, Coy will lace up her walking shoes and join hundreds of other Clark County residents living with the disease for the annual Walk MS event in Vancouver, which raises money for the local chapter of the MS Society.

Coy has participated in the event since the early ’90s, fundraising in honor of her father, who also had MS. This year, she’ll be walking for herself, too.

“I’m doing it for the same reason I’ve always done it: to help fund research and to find a cure for me or whomever else,” Coy said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.