As an active fundraiser, Sharon Dodge talks about her MS all the time.
But she had a shocking moment during a recent conversation. She was
diagnosed with MS a dozen years ago. “Wow. I just don’t think about it.
It’s just a part of life,” she said. The ability to think about things
other than her illness didn’t come easy at first.
As an active fundraiser, Sharon Dodge talks about her MS all the time. But she had a shocking moment during a recent conversation. She was diagnosed with MS a dozen years ago. “Wow. I just don’t think about it. It’s just a part of life,” she said.
The ability to think about things other than her illness didn’t come easy at first. Sharon was diagnosed at 30 while stationed in Spain with her husband Bill, a naval aviator, and their three-year-old son Tyler.
Along with denial and anger came fear: her father had died of MS only eight years earlier, at the age of 48. “Am I going to be dead when I’m 48?” she thought. “Am I going to be there to see my daughter walk down the aisle? I got sucked into all of that.”
The Dodges didn’t even have a daughter — and never would, if Sharon’s military neurologist had his way. His only firm piece of disease-management advice: no more kids. A civilian neurologist later countermanded that order with a phrase that continues to shape Sharon’s life: “You need to live your life like you don’t have this disease.”
Complying with these instructions resulted in twin girls. It’s too early to be walking down any aisles — Caitlyn and Sarah turn 10 in August — but when the time comes, Sharon plans to be there.
Everyone with MS is affected differently. Sharon concedes she once made the mistake of assuming that because she felt well, she was well. “I went off my medication for nine months,” she said. “I know better than anybody that MS is a silent disease and it’s attacking your brain and spinal cord whether you feel it or not. I just needed a break from these needles!” Result: four new lesions and expansion of the old ones. “They all just lit up. I went back on (medication) immediately.”
When Sharon meets people newly diagnosed with MS, she makes sure to tell them two things: have kids if you want; and if you’re a candidate for a disease-modifying drug, take it! It’s been said that fearless people can’t be called brave; to earn that compliment, you need to have fear and overcome it. That makes Sharon Dodge one of the bravest people we know.
An accomplished public speaker, Sharon admits her stomach churns before every appearance. And she has had to face MS and childrearing alone at times: Bill has had several assignments in the Mideast, including a 14-month stretch that included time in Iraq and Afghanistan. How does Sharon conquer fear? By working toward the day when nobody has to fear MS.
“My passion is for my kids,” she said. “I really want to be sure that my kids do not sit in a neurologist’s office and hear, ‘You have MS, you have the same disease your mother had.’ “It’s not a good thing to go through. I want to spare them that.”