Amy Simmons is determined to not let a foot injury stop her from walking in the Cape Cod Multiple Sclerosis Challenge Walk Sept. 7-9.
After all, if her mom, who was diagnosed with MS more than 30 years ago, can do large portions of the walk, Simmons figures a foot injury shouldn’t keep her completely out of the event.
“I can walk through the pain,” Simmons said, adding that she is waiting on a doctor to advise her how much or how little she can do. As long as she isn’t going to do permanent damage, Simmons said she wouldn’t miss the walk, her third, and if she has any say in the matter, just the latest of many more to come.
“I can’t imagine not doing it,” Simmons said. “It’s only going to be easier [as her kids get older]. Once you get involved in it, I don’t think people stop doing it.”
Since 2010, Simmons has joined her mom, Sharry Lenkowski, and sister, Jenny Lenkowski, on the Cape for the annual 50-mile, three-day walk to raise money for the New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Multiple sclerosis is "a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe enough to cause blindness or paralysis," according to the National MS Society FAQ. The National MS Society funds not only research, but also direct assistance for individuals living with the disease.
Simmons was quite young when her mother was diagnosed, so she’s lived with an understanding and awareness of the disease for most of her life, but part of the reason Simmons participates in the walk to is help increase understanding and raise awareness among people who haven’t been directly touched.
“People think of MS and think of somebody in a wheelchair,” Simmons explained. “But it’s like any other autoimmune disease. It’s a hidden disease. There’s a lot going on in their bodies that means they have to work a lot harder to do everyday things.
“People know severe MS, but they don’t really understand people who live with it on an everyday basis.”
Simmons said her mother tends to respond well to MS therapies and continues to try new options as research makes them available. Overall, she’s doing well.
During the walk, Simmons, her mom and sister stick mostly together, traversing the 20-mile treks on days one and two and the 10-mile trek on day three. Each evening the walk participants gather back at Cape Cod Sea Camps in Brewster where they spend the night and enjoy activities and events.
The walk is memorable for Simmons, but it is the candlelight ceremony one night at the camp that truly stands out in her mind as a highlight each year.
The walk itself isn’t easy. Twenty miles in a single day – and then 30 more miles over the next two days – will wreck havoc on even the most prepared individual.
“This takes so much training to prepare for this walk,” Simmons said, adding that this is the first year her children have been old enough to stay home while she takes her training walks. Simmons said she generally trains by doing three, three- to five-mile walks each week and an additional two, 10-mile walks. “It’s the monotonous grind on your joints. You have to build up endurance and calluses on your feet.”
Simmons said one of the most important tips she can offer walkers is to discern the “hot spots” on their feet that will blister in long walks and then learn how to bandage their feet.
“Find the right socks, the right sneakers and how to bandage your feet,” Simmons said.
Simmons said she is hopeful that a cure for MS is soon to come, but until that day she offers a challenge to others.
“Come on out and join me,” she said. “Whether you take it on as a personal or physical challenge or with a personal connection to MS, be a part of something bigger.”
Simmons’ set a $1,800 fundraising goal. Find out more on her walk page.
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