Recently, Rachel celebrated her youngest daughter’s graduation from college with a degree in Community Health. It’s an accomplishment Rachel was thrilled to witness and a career focus that she was proud to have influenced. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when her youngest child was a teenager, Rachel’s illness has had a profound impact on her life and that of her family… not the least of which is a shared desire to help others faced with difficult health challenges like MS.
Today, Rachel will tell you that all things happen for a reason and that she and her family have turned what could have been a devastating disease into a very positive life experience. Of course, approaching Christmas 2001, Rachel had no idea of the difficult journey ahead. She and her husband had raised three beautiful children. She loved her job teaching preschool… so much so that she was attending graduate school for an advanced degree in early childhood education. She was active, driven, outspoken and happy.
At 45, life was truly idyllic, until the very unexpected happened.
“I remember I was playing with the neighbor’s dogs when I felt a twinge. My right side went numb,” Rachel began. “So, I went to a chiropractor and things went back to normal for about three years. Then it happened again… only this time it didn’t go away and in October of 2004 I was diagnosed with MS.”
At first, Rachel, lacking knowledge, assumed it was a death sentence. But her family’s encouragement and her own strength of will simply wouldn’t allow her to give in.
“We were in it together,” she explained
“I tried to continue to lead my life as I always had, but I found I was no longer able to play with the kids at the preschool… getting down on the carpet was just too much. As I began interviewing for jobs, people looked at me differently. Try as I might to believe otherwise, my life had changed dramatically, but more importantly, I had changed profoundly, allowing my dreams and ambitions to fall by the wayside.”
By 2012, Rachel realized she needed more. More information. More inspiration. More hope. She had attended a Can Do MS JUMPSTART® Program years earlier and turned to Can Do MS once again.
“The four-day CAN DO® Program taught me how to best take care of me, both physically and mentally. They gave me the tools to advocate for myself… to be my own voice. It was important because I realized that I had something that I needed to share, that others could benefit from my experience.”
This program was a defining moment
Today, Rachel still spends her “spare” time teaching, albeit her students are older and her message more mature. In between flights across the country where she advocates for the rights of the disabled, she travels the Western U.S. “speaking out and speaking up” to women’s groups. “Women see me and realize that if I can do this… they can do anything.”
You can make a difference!
Can Do MS has empowered tens of thousands of people like Rachel giving them the perspective, information and skills necessary to take their lives back from this debilitating illness. In 2012, 98 percent of these individuals attended our programs at no cost. We’re pleased to announce that in 2013 attendance will be 100 percent free of charge, but we need your help to ensure a full roster of free programming.
Your dollars will:
• Give Can Do MS lifestyle empowerment programs a chance to reach more people like Rachel
• Give us the opportunity to offer more free programs in 2013
• Give important complementary treatment options to traditional MS care
• Give hope, health and courage to thousands of people living with MS
Your contribution ensures that people struggling with MS can experience the life-changing benefits of our lifestyle empowerment programs.
Rachel says it best, “I’d like to shout from the mountain tops about what a difference Can Do MS made in my life. People with MS deserve a program like this… they’re worth it.” We know you agree. Through your continued support, Can Do MS is able to help individuals like Rachel focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot.
Please join Rachel with your own can do attitude and give generously today.
Heidi A. Heltzel, President and CEO
P.S. Thanks to you, Rachel and her family are stronger now than ever before. Your commitment to helping people with MS is not only appreciated, but it’s making a difference.
Learn about our 4-Star Charity Navigator rating for fiscal responsibility.