Ex-Blazer lends his voice to wife’s battle with MS

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer

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LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. — Jerome Kersey, a key member of the early 1990’s Finals runs for the Trail Blazers, scored 11,825 points in his 17-year NBA career.

Several years after his career ended, he’s had one life-changing assist almost a decade in the making.

Kersey’s wife, Teri, was first diagnosed with Relapse-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, commonly known as MS 10 years ago.

Teri’s grandmother had MS. All she could remember when she thought of it was the sight of her in a wheelchair.

“I overheard some friends talking about me, not in a mean way, but they said ‘We were going to go for a walk’ and I heard them say ‘Well we can’t do that. Teri can’t go,'” she recalled. “And it kind of made me sad. I don’t want to be the reason why someone can’t do something or a reason why we can’t go somewhere.”

Teri has three kids, McKenzie, Brendan and Maddie. At the time she was diagnosed 10 years ago, working two jobs — as a personal trainer and dental assistant — she felt the diagnosis made her unable to train others.

“Physically I was in the best shape of my life, but mentally I thought ‘They told me I have MS. I can’t do this anymore,’ ” Teri said.

But right around the time she was diagnosed with MS, she met Jerome.

“So he took on a single Mom with MS and three kids,” she said. “That’s a strong man. He’s been a really big deal in this whole journey for me. He’s been the voice. If it wasn’t for him nobody would know that I had MS because I didn’t talk about it.

“He’d be the one to say ‘Oh my wife has MS’ and I’d say ‘Why are you telling people that? Don’t tell people that.’ ”

When they were together, they still never mentioned it much.

“We didn’t talk about it much at all. It was kind of like hush-hush in a sense,” Jerome said.

“I actually, for a long time, didn’t want to read about it. I didn’t want to know about it,” Teri said. “I thought the less I know, the less it will affect me.”

Jerome added: “I might of been a little hardened when I said it. ‘You have MS. It’s not going anywhere.’ It’s easy for me to say just ‘Deal with it, you have it’ when you don’t have it. The more people she got around, the more she saw it’s not a death sentence.”

Jerome first got involved with the Caddies 4 Cure charity, acting as an emcee for the event and playing in the golf tournament. The event brings back current and former professional athletes and broadcasters to fund raise for Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and the Oregon chapter of the National MS society. He also got involved with the Portland MS walk with Teri observing, trying to stay out of the spotlight, behind the scenes through all of it.

“The MS walk every year used to be a small little deal, and it’s just grown,” Jerome said.

It’s been those experiences, being behind the scenes and meeting others living with MS at these events, that have helped Teri get to the point where she wants to become more vocal in raising MS awareness and sharing her story.

Teri agreed to do a video — after years of them asking her to share her story — for the Caddies 4 Cure banquet earlier this year. She was profiled this past week in the MS Visionaries series on Yahoo Health, detailing her treatment and her journey with MS.

“I was surprised by how many people were touched by the video of my story, which is kind of how this all started,” Teri said. “People were coming up to me and said ‘Thank you for that.’ So I can speak and I can touch other people’s lives. That’s kind of nice.”

Teri and Jerome are coming up on their first wedding anniversary, although they’ve been together for nine years. Along with Jerome’s daughter Kiara, they make a family of six.

Teri has her good days and she has her bad ones, never taking the days without pain for granted.

“I’m right back on track and I’m physically stronger than I was even back then. I’m a total gym rat. I love lifting weights. I hate cardio,” she said.

Jerome considers the MS events to be something of a family affair. And for the first time in nearly a decade of having the diagnosis, Teri is eager to learn more and be at the forefront of the battle.

“It’s not your grandmother’s MS. We don’t have to live that way anymore,” she said. “I want to people to not be afraid, and I’m hoping that by me speaking out and people being able to see where I’m at that people won’t be afraid to find support groups and get involved because I’ve met so many really wonderful people.”