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Putting a face on MS.

Let's face it, adding a well-known visage to the words "multiple sclerosis" helps to enlighten people about the disease. Doing so can also provide solace to people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) by letting them know they are not alone--that anyone can develop or be affected by it. It empowers us to know that famous, admired, and talented people (with and without the disease) have picked up the cause and are devoting time, effort, and influence to make sure that one day no one will "face" MS.

The National MS Society (NMSS) is grateful to the many individuals who join us in our fight. Here we present the efforts of a few celebrated people with MS, who, with family and friends, have contributed a great deal to MS awareness in the past year.

Celebrities Living With MS ... and Talking About It!

Country music star Clay Walker, 33, has already sold more than 8 million albums. He has four platinum and two gold albums, and his recently released ninth one, "A Few Questions," debuted at number three on Billboard--the highest debut of his career. With 11 number-one singles and five number-one videos, Walker is a major force in the music field. Doctors diagnosed his MS in 1996, just when his career was taking off, three years after he signed his first record deal.

To date, Walker has shared his personal seven-year battle against MS with nearly 1 billion people through almost 2,000 media outlets, providing inspiration to all. He has connected with thousands of people living with MS, by speaking at MS educational seminars, addressing members of Congress about legislature to address the needs of individuals living with MS, doing TV and radio public service announcements, as well as helping raise funds for MS research and services.

Walker says, "Living with MS hasn't been easy. It's changed the way I look at every person in the world. I know I've been lucky and not everyone who has MS has stayed as healthy as I have. I believe being able to take advantage of the new disease-modifying therapies that were available when I was first diagnosed with MS have made a difference to me."

Walker began his life in Beaumont, Tex., the oldest of five children, and grew up surrounded by traditional country music. His music reflects his devotion as a loving husband and father of two daughters.

Born into a show business family, Teri Garr became established in television in the seventies with appearances on Star Trek, It Takes A Thief McCloud, and as a regular on the Sonny and Cher Show. Garr has since risen to become one of Hollywood's most versatile, energetic, and well-recognized actresses, starring in many memorable films including Young Frankenstein and Tootsie. Recently she appeared on the sit-com Friends in the role of Phoebe's birth mother.

Since disclosing her MS in 2002, Garr has tirelessly toured the country, affirming the experiences of those who have the disease while educating the public about the importance of disease-modifying drug therapies. Most recently she assumed a new role, that of national chair for NMSS's Women Against MS (WAMS) program.

Celebrities living With MS--and Writing About It!

David "Squiggy" Lander made his first appearance against MS 25 years ago at an NMSS telethon in Buffalo, N.Y. At the time he knew almost nothing of MS. Five years later he began to experience intermittent numbness, balance problems, and fatigue and eventually became one of the several hundred people diagnosed with MS every week.

Since going public with his MS in 1999 (after keeping it a secret for 16 years), Lander has brought humor and a crusader's zeal to the fight to end this disease's devastating effects. He has inspired thousands with his memoir, Fall Down Laughing, How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn't Tell Nobody (Tarcher/Putnam [C] 2000).

Brooklyn native Lander, best known for his role as "Squiggy" on the hit show Laverne and Shirley, has appeared in feature films including A League of Their Own, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Scary Movie. He has also guest-starred on dozens of TV shows. He is presently featured in a public service spot about MS airing on TV with actor and close friend Michael McKean, who played "Lenny" to Lander's "Squiggy." McKean has starred in a number of comedic classics including This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind.

Noted journalist Richard Cohen, who is also the husband of TV personality Meridith Viera of The View and Millionaire, recently published Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness--A Reluctant Memoir (HarperCollins [C] 2004), an account of his battle with MS and colon cancer. According to Publisher's Weekly, the book describes Cohen's 30-year determination to "cope and to hope." As Cohen explains it, "This book is my daily conversation with myself, a chronicle of struggles in that exotic place just north of the neck. At the moment my attitude checks out well. I do believe I am winning."

Cohen produces a monthly Webcast for NMSS's New York City Chapter that features MS specialists and researchers discussing important topics in the field. He has worked with MS Care Centers to explore innovative approaches to treatment and disease management and has helped strategize on communication outreach. He, Meridith, and their children have actively supported the MS Walk and other NMSS fund-raising events.

For further information about MS, the work of the NMSS, and people featured in this article, visit www.nationalmssociety.org or contact your local chapter at (800) FIGHT MS.

Information for this column is provided by:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society 733 Third Avenue New York. NY 10017-3288 (800) FIGHT MS / (212) 986-3240 nat@nmss.org / www.nmss.org
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Title Annotation:Diagnosis: MS; multiple sclerosis
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:948
Previous Article:Pregnancy & SCI.
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