This past August Jonna P. rode 167 miles in two days on her bike. This would be an impressive achievement for anyone, but it is almost miraculous for Jonna – she has multiple sclerosis. Needless to say, she and her husband Tom are overjoyed with her accomplishment.
Things haven’t always been so rosy for Jonna. For years after her symptoms first appeared in 1992, doctors misdiagnosed her MS. A neurologist finally diagnosed her MS in 1997, and when her symptoms surfaced two years later, she went into an emotional tailspin. She felt like her days of being an athlete had faded.
It wasn’t too long after this that Jonna first heard about the CAN DO Program, founded by former Olympic skier Jimmie Heuga, who also had MS. When she found out that the program was coming to Salt Lake City, she immediately enrolled and brought her mother as her support partner.
The CAN DO Program was life-changing for both Jonna and her mother in 2005, when she attended on a scholarship thanks to generous donations.
“The program staff weren’t talking about the things that I was no longer able to do. They were emphasizing what I still could do. It was so uplifting.”
The CAN DO Program staff taught Jonna to accept her MS, the walking cane and other aspects that came along with it. And that was just the start.
“The CAN DO Program shed light on all of those things you don’t think to ask about, but that can make such a difference in your life.”
Every participant left the program with a personalized lifestyle strategy for living with MS, including recommendations and ways to acquire needed resources when at home.
When Jonna returned home, she couldn’t stop talking about the CAN DO Program and the difference it was making in her life. For the first time in years, she felt empowered and her physical symptoms began improving with new treatments.
In 2008, Jonna married Tom. More than anything, she wanted to attend the CAN DO Program with Tom. They were finally able to attend the program together in 2011. This time Jonna didn’t need the scholarship and asked that the money be used for someone
with greater need.
The benefits received the second time around were different, but just as vital as those she experienced the first time she attended the CAN DO Program. By now, Jonna’s symptoms were virtually invisible to the casual observer. Yet, she was struggling with extreme fatigue, bladder control and other physical challenges.
Tom also benefited greatly from the program.
It opened his eyes to Jonna’s struggles and improved his ability to support her. It also enhanced their personal talks about MS and how it was impacting their lives. Can Do MS has made an enormous difference in Jonna’s life, as evidenced by the confidence she had to undertake a 167-mile bike ride with the Bike MS fundraising event this past summer.
To help the most people, we take the four-day CAN DO and the one-day JUMPSTART Programs to cities around the country. JUMPSTART is a free interactive, educational program that shares knowledge, skills and tools to help those with MS adopt a healthy lifestyle and actively co-manage their MS.
Also, in late 2010 we launched our free monthly Webinar Series. More than 1,200 people have taken part in this informative and accessible web-based program, either live or via the archives.
In 2011, we also began Ask the Can Do Team, an online question and answer format that allows past CAN DO Program participants to connect with our interdisciplinary team of MS professionals. Another 1,100 people have benefited from this by being able to view these Q & As and apply them to their own lives.
We continue to work collaboratively with other MS organizations to bring programs to more communities around the United States and Canada. Working with the National MS Society, the Live Fully, Live Well Program is helping move people from education to action. This program covers topics affecting the whole family living with MS to strengthen relationships, increase understanding and promote improved health and quality of life. To date more than 800 people have taken advantage of the Live Fully, Live Well webinars and another 400 are enrolled in the in-person programs.
All of these programs are possible only because of gifts from supporters, like you. Will you give a gift today and help us continue to bring a renewed sense of hope to those with MS?
Thanks to your generous donations, we are reaching more people than ever and helping them gain the knowledge and skills to actively co-manage their MS and live their best lives. The CAN DO Program greatly improved Jonna’s life. Help us bring hope to others by giving a gift today.
Your gift is vital to the success of our programs. Please give what you can today. Thank you for your generosity and caring.