MS Walk kindles hope for healing

As hundreds of visitors stride along the streets enjoying Culpeper Day Saturday dozens of other people will be nearby focused on a different purpose.
The annual MS Charity Walk will begin at Culpeper Baptist Church (registration is at 9 a.m.) at 10 a.m. with the participants walking from the church down Davis Street to the Depot and back to the church.

“This year we are focusing not so much on the distance walked, but on fund-raising and making people aware of MS,” said Janet Driggers, whose husband John has had the disease for more than a decade. “We expect about 150 to 200 walkers.”
John Driggers would love to be one of them.
Multiple Sclerosis affects the ability of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other. There is no cure
Since 2000, John Driggers has gone from walking normally to using canes to now primarily using a wheelchair. He has lost some mobility, but not his positive outlook on life.

“I choose not to dwell on it,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “I accept each day for what’s been given to me and try not to get too high or too low. I wake up, get in my red Miata convertible, go to Starbucks and see people. Being able to do that makes it a good day.
“I take a look at Danielle, Iris and Jacklyn (the Driggers’ three grandchildren) and it’s so important that research be done so they won’t be faced with this.”
MS is not genetic and it affects women more than men.
“Somehow I lost that lottery,” Driggers said, laughing.
He mentioned some of the frustrations he deals with daily.
“The fatigue has gotten a lot worse in the past three or four years,” he said. “I can still walk with a walker, but if I go 70 or 80 feet it feels like I have run a marathon.
“I call it the ‘maybe disease.’ I can’t promise anyone ahead of time that I’ll be someplace. I have to wait and see how I feel.”

John and Janet both said that most of the time and money being spent right now by researchers is in looking for remission and, ultimately, a cure.
“My type is progressive,” John said. “There are no studies to tell me what to expect with that. “That’s too hard to predict. The work that is going on is on relaxing and remitting. Even if they don’t find a cure we are hoping they will find medications that will ease up the progression.”
John recently underwent some treatments with Botox. At first, the results looked promising.
“About two months ago I noticed a stiffening of my left hand,” he said. “The doctor said the treatment wasn’t working.”
The Driggers’ are hoping to raise $20,000 this year to help with MS research. Funds collected will also help provide programs for local people with MS.

If you would like to donate or sponsor a walker you can go to their website at:
Donations can also be made by sending a check to the Blue Ridge Chapter of the MS Society in care of the Driggers’ at 10068 Jann Court in Culpeper 22701 or by calling 270-5368.
“The Monte Carlo Night for the Germanna Foundation just raised $144,000,” Janet said in a phone interview. “I’d like to do that for MS research.
“MS is a silent event. People don’t talk about it. Some people don’t want others to know they even have it. John didn’t want to admit it for a year.”
Janet said that holding the MS Walk on the same day as Culpeper Day will, hopefully, give it a higher profile.
“John just calls his MS a ‘bump in the road,” Janet said. “His sense of humor gets him through the times that are trying or depressing. He’ll always find a way to turn a frown into a smile.”

But for the partner of someone with MS, sometimes what has been lost and the present realities of life can bubble to the surface.
“Besides running my travel agency (Carefree Cruise and Travel) I am also John’s caregiver,” Janet said. “I don’t mind being his caregiver, but I mostly want to be his wife. I miss the times we walked on the beach together when we lived in Florida.”