Health Check: MS progress benefits local woman

Renee Holder

Renee Holder has been a volunteer for the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society since she was diagnosed with the auto immune disease six years ago.

She has a family history.

"I have an aunt who has passed away since and her daughter, my cousin, has it," Holder said.

Yet Holder never thought it would happen to her.

However, in 2008 she had numbness in both of her hands and in the heels of her feet.

"In the course of two weeks I couldn't walk, couldn't hold a pencil, couldn't do anything," Holder said.

Her doctor told her it was a pinched nerve.

"I just had that gut feeling that it was more," Holder said.

An MRI confirmed Holder, a wife and mother of four boys, had MS. And that's when she turned to the MS Society.

"And it kind of kept me preoccupied from thinking about having it," she said. "Last year, they funded $40 million in research."

Fundraising walks like the one they're preparing for in Bristol are making a difference.

In fact, chapter president Kathy Mechnig says she's seen huge strides in treatments since she began here 29 years ago.

"There was nothing. There was nothing. People with MS were told to go home and live their life. I don't believe there were even symptom management drugs back then," Mechnig said.

Holder has been the beneficiary of progress. She started weekly injections six years ago.

"It did help. No more new lesions but the side effects. I had no weekends anymore. I was like a teenager. I'd sleep until 1:30 in the afternoon and go back to bed by 7:30 p.m., no energy," Holder said.

Now she's on a new pill.

"And I feel normal, whatever that is," Holder said.

She said helping the MS Society raise money has become a family affair. Her 11-year-old son Patrick has been donating his birthday money since her diagnosis. He was in kindergarten then.

"He's collected just shy of $2,000 in seven years so that's pretty good for a little kid," Holder said.

The fundraiser in Bristol is scheduled for May 3.