By Rose Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
BURTON – Stuffed monkeys swung from tree branches. Three-foot-tall lollipops sprouted from the grass. And a yellow brick road made of yellow tape wound through it all at the Family Discovery camp put on by the Lone Star chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society over the weekend in Burton, near Brenham.
Multiple sclerosis whirls its suffers in a tornado of oft-misunderstood symptoms and confusion.
"You damn drunk," a passerby once called Peggy Muller after a particularly fierce spell.
"I (had) suddenly become very fatigued and lost my balance," Muller remembered.
"I wanted to build awareness for people, not only with multiple sclerosis, but also normal people who may point and laugh."
Muller takes time out of her busy schedule as the facilitator for the Copperas Cove multiple sclerosis support group to attend the annual Family Discovery Camp. She makes new friends, visit with old ones and tries to forget the hardships she endures day after day.
As a child, Clara Collins would stand and then fall. Her legs would get weak and she ran sideways. She never played hopscotch because of her lack of coordination and, worse, her family often believed she was making it all up.
In 2000, at the age of 49, Collins was diagnosed with MS. Two years later, her older sister also was diagnosed with the same affliction. To date, there is no research to support a hereditary link to MS.
Collins admitted that she was shy and still in shock with the diagnosis during the first two years at Family Discovery Camp. Her third year, however, she decided it was time to "get into trouble."
"I got a life to live," said Collins, of Killeen. "You think MS is going to stop me?"
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects a person's central nervous system, which consists of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, causing a laundry list of ailments such as vision problems, blindness, difficulty in walking, memory problems, seizures and headaches.
That third year Collins was at Family Discovery Camp, she rode a horse for the first time. She canoed, participated in arts and crafts and even rock-climbed.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Web site states that the cause for MS is unknown and virtually anyone may develop the disease, although most are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 and women are more commonly diagnosed than men.
Like Collins who showed early signs of MS in her childhood, pediatric MS is considered rare, but the numbers seemed to have grown since 1980. Of the 400,000 men and women in the U.S. who are diagnosed with MS, about 8,000 to 10,000 are children.
But everyone's ailments differ. Muller finds the camp helpful for people with MS to discuss their symptoms and ways to correct them.
"People will say they find more information here than at their doctor's office," Muller said.
Campers enjoyed three days and two nights of canoeing, horse riding, crafts, yoga, medical massage therapy provided by the Tranquil Retreat in Harker Heights, and heel-clicking at a dance on Saturday night.
They returned home with e-mails and phone numbers, taking the comfort that although the world around them might not understand the challenge of their daily lives, they were and are still able to click their heels and get carried away.
Contact Rose Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7469