|Personal Connections to MS|
Sharon Dodge knew something was wrong. She was experiencing numbness and tingling sensations in her feet and legs, as well as vertigo and exhaustion. In the back of her mind, Sharon knew that these were major symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the disease that had led to her father's death when he was 49. Sharon told her mother her symptoms. Her mother expressed concern saying that Sharon's father had the same complaints before he was diagnosed with MS.
At the time, Sharon and her husband, Billy, a commander in the US Navy, were living on a naval base in Spain with their young son, Tyler. After multiple tests, Sharon was flown to a base in Germany where there was a 24-hour MRI. Soon, Sharon was diagnosed with MS, just like her father, and within hours Sharon was sent back to the United States to begin treatment.
At first, Sharon was very scared, but soon she realized that "it had been a long time since [her] dad died and that MS research has come a long way." One of the best pieces of advice Sharon received on how to deal with having MS was given to her by a top neurologist; "you need to live this life like you don't have this disease." She took that to heart and lives each day to its fullest.
In 2003, Billy was sent to Iraq to serve, leaving Sharon to care for her three children alone. For anyone, the departure of a spouse and caregiver would prove difficult, but for someone with an unpredictable disease like MS, it was especially challenging.
Sharon recalls, "It wasn't easy, but I refused to crawl in a hole and feel sorry for myself." In addition to her unwavering will, Sharon advises that she had "an amazing support system" who made her feel like she was never alone. Friends seemed to jumped at the chance to help the Dodge family. "Between military, non-military, and church friends I found there was never a need for childcare," Sharon laughs. From day to day issues, to bigger worries like the two surgeries she had while Billy was away, between her friends and her children, who were always there for her as well, the daily chores managed to get done.
Even while she looked after her own family, she never forgot her extended MS family and she continued working hard as a volunteer to raise money for her local Greater Washington Chapter. She also made sure to cheer on her "pedal partners" who were cycling in her name. "Life is too short," Sharon says, "I have no choice but to make a difference. There's always hope."
In Iraq, despite being stationed thousands of miles from home, Billy found it essential and comforting to help in the fight against MS. Even while partaking in an arduous overseas assignment, Billy managed to raise $900 for his local MS Walk! Through his fundraising, he felt closer to home, and to his wife.
Today, the reunited Dodge family resides in Maryland and Sharon now sits on the board of the Maryland Chapter.
|Created October 7, 2005|