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The book Incidental Heroes: Disabling the Myths About Multiple Sclerosis is the first thing I read when I wake up and the last before falling asleep. It helps me to believe that I'm going to be fine despite my own MS, diagnosed in 1986.

The book was the brainchild of photographer Gina Minielli Gunkel and coproducer Jackie Girsky Popper. Both are married, have full-time careers, and have MS. Jackie had major concerns about the advisability of having children. When she met Gina at the Manhattan Society--the young professionals' fund-raising group of the Society's New York City Chapter--and learned that Gina has two small children, she thought, "Why didn't I meet you sooner?" The women bonded instantly. Gina, a professional photographer, wanted to photograph people who have MS and fight against the stigma. "I got to thinking for about 30 seconds," Jackie said, "and I decided, Well, let's just do it."

Creating the 31 photographs and stories for Incidental Heroes provided both women with personal high points. (The text was written by Kyle E. McHugh.) Jackie was particularly moved by the session with Elroy Hill. "When we arrived, Elroy's home was filled with family members. You would have thought that this man was being photographed for the cover of Time. People kept coming and going. There was so much love in that home that I believe the positive energy would have powered his wheelchair if the batteries failed. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I think of Elroy Hill's incredible positive spirit and attitude of giving back to the MS community, and it touches me."

Gina especially remembers Dianne Pilgrim, photographed when she was director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. During the shoot, Gina talked about photographing Robin Ryerson on her horse in Colorado. "Oh, I used to ride all the time," Dianne said. "I love horses." Gina asked, "But why don't you ride?" Dianne paused and said, "I don't know." Dianne looked at the picture of Robin and realized that horseback riding was something she might still do even though she uses a wheelchair--and Gina realized what the book could do.

"Incidental Heroes: Disabling the Myths About Multiple Sclerosis" was produced through gifts from Biogen, Inc. and the Manhattan Society. To request a free copy, call 1-800-FIGHT MS (1-800-344-4867), and press option #1 to reach the Society chapter nearest you.

Reviewed by Barbara Paley-Israel, a writer and a volunteer in the Information Resource Center of the New York City Chapter
COPYRIGHT 2000 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Paley-Israel, Barbara
Publication:Inside MS
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2000
Previous Article:Prime-time MS.
Next Article:About Being Alone with My Needle.

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