Browsing Tag

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Multiple Sclerosis & HIV: An Unlikely Connection

Causes, KB's Journey

This week, I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot. Mainly, I’ve been thinking about how proud she would be to see how far I’ve come with my career, my personal life, and with Red Pump. We started Red Pump a year after she passed away and I can’t help but to wish that she was here today to gush over my photo in Essence or to reassure me when I’m too exhausted from juggling so many hats.

For me, my mother was the prototype for fabulous giving. As a teen, she volunteered with different groups and also taught a Sunday school class at her church. When she moved to Chicago, she continued her season of service and found groups to devote her time and attention. I’ll never forget how she would take us with her on Monday nights when she tutored foster children at the Harold Washington Library. Her commitment to that role landed her a Volunteer of the Year award from Volunteers of America. I still display that award proudly in my home as a reminder of how far doing good can take you.

Living with multiple sclerosis inserted many challenges in her (and our) day-to-day life. I’ve shared before about my experience as a youth caregiver but that is only part of the memories. For every challenge, there were plenty of happy moments. I just wish that her MS wouldn’t have gotten in the way of us creating so many more.

 

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This week is MS Awareness Week, a time where we are asked to take action to help others learn more about MS and what they can do to make a difference. One of the asks of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is that we spend this time “creating connections stronger than the ones that MS destroys.” For me, the connection that I have to health education and activism is far greater than anything that this disease could EVER destroy.

The fight against multiple sclerosis was the first cause that I’ve ever rallied behind. In high school, I volunteered at the annual MS Walk, did multiple presentations on MS, and racked up service hours after school in their office. I continued that commitment in college and in the years right after my graduation. At this point in my life, I don’t have as much time to physically devote to MS and it would seem that HIV has “stolen the show” so to speak. That’s not the case. I will never forget (or forgive) how multiple sclerosis has impacted my life, or the role that the disease played in my mother’s passing.

Without a life impacted by multiple sclerosis, I don’t know if I would be as passionate about causes or service. I don’t know if I would have the tools or desire to be an advocate. I don’t know if I would have ever started The Red Pump Project. So, as I recognize MS Awareness Week, I will make a donation to my local chapter of the MS Society, but I will also raise my voice louder for anyone who needs a champion. From MS to HIV, it is my sincere prayer that my efforts make an impact.

More importantly, I pray that I continue to make my do-gooder mother turned angel proud.

To learn more about multiple sclerosis, a debilitating neurological condition, check out this helpful section on the National MS Society’s webpage.

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Monday Motivation: A Marathon of Support

KB's Journey

Happy Monday, folks! It’s been a minute since I’ve written one of these and I’m excited to chat about this week’s motivation. Yesterday, 26.2 miles of Chicago streets were taken over by tens of thousands of runners who decided that they were BOSS enough to run the Chicago Marathon. If you want to be motivated, go out on the race course and cheer on the runners for a solid hour. You might find yourself thinking what can I do if I set my mind to it. What seemingly impossible task can I check off my to-do list? Or maybe that’s just me.

As I stood out there for over 2 hours, I was inspired by the way that people came out to support strangers and friends alike. Personally, I cheered for everyone. The guy in the cow costume, the wheelchair racer with the black skullcap, the young man sporting a “Race to Stop MS” jersey, the lady running to support Bright Pink, and the husband who wore his kids’ well-wishes on his chest. For one reason or another, they decided that yesterday would be the day that they would run 26.2 miles. And, I saluted them for it.

After I got home, I sat around thinking “I want to be a better person. I want to realllllly push myself to do something that I’m not sure I can do.” So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to beat myself up about what I haven’t done so far. I’m just going to go and run (literally and figuratively) without ceasing. And, when I feel like I want to give up, I’m going to think about the husband who jumped in the race to run the last mile with his wife. As she winced with pain, he ran alongside her repeating, “You are strong. You are strong.”

Yes, yes I am.

-kb

A Tale of Two Causes

HIV/AIDS, KB's Journey, Multiple Sclerosis


All of my life, my #1 cause has been multiple sclerosis. I watched my mother fight the disease for almost 30 years, and learned to hate every single thing that this disease is capable of doing to an individual and their families. I volunteered for the MS Society, learned about the disease and took every opportunity to educate others about MS.

When I started The Red Pump Project in 2009, I picked up another flag to carry. This time, my fight centered around educating my peers and others about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. Being in this position has been a blessing and an eye-opening experience but I have a confession to make…

*whispers* I feel guilty about spending less time championing the fight against multiple sclerosis.

I hope that doesn’t sound crazy to you because I almost felt crazy typing it. After all, we can all stand for more than one cause and support more than one organization. But, for me…with my personal story, I feel like I’ve turned my back on something that was once all I could think about. When I promote the MS Society or encourage people to support the organization, I feel this tug like, “Should I be using my connections and networks to promote Red Pump instead?”

So, for now, I continue to be torn…Torn between a disease that strikes at random and a disease that can be prevented. One disease that affects all Americans and one that is disproportionately affecting LGBT and minority communities. I shouldn’t feel this way but I do.

I used to feel that my decreased involvement in the fight against MS meant that I was forgetting about my mother and her life. But, then I remember that she’s probably very proud of my work with Red Pump. I don’t know…I’m sure that I will get over this hump soon. The anniversary of her passing is this month so maybe that’s a factor in this little guilt-fest. Yeah, I’m going to chalk it up to that…but I’m still going to re-up my involvement with the Society in the meantime.

I think that should do it.

-kb