By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – When talk show host Montel Williams took the stage during a visit to the Clear Creek Post Exchange Friday evening, he stumbled a bit while climbing the stairs.
To the hundreds in attendance who were waiting to get their copies of Williams' new DVD series, which addresses improving finances, health and relationships, that may not have meant a thing, but for two women sitting in the audience, that trip was a reminder of the bond they share with the visiting celebrity.
Williams, who is a former Marine and sailor, Danell Petrovia and Belkys Quinones have all been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The disease affects the central nervous system, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. That includes the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves,
Seeing Williams trip on a stair was something Petrovia and Quinones could relate to because they, too, have troubles when it comes to basic motor functions that others may take for granted.
Quinones, who is the spouse of a former soldier, walks with a cane, and Petrovia, the wife of a lieutenant colonel in the recently activated 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, walks unsteadily and often requires the assistance of another person.
Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and has since established a fund to aid in the study of the disease, according to his Web site, www.montelms.org.
The whole reason Petrovia, who was accompanied by her mother, Katy Del Rio, came to the event at the store was because she knew Williams had the disease and she figured a person with his prominence would have answers to her questions about research and treatment.
Answers are coming, he told her. Researchers at Harvard will release information about a new medicine combination in three months and if Petrovia can stay at the stage of the disease she is now, she can benefit from the treatment, he told her.
She and her mother talked with Williams for several minutes and he told them to stay strong. Those are words of advice that Petrovia, who is 39, and Quinones, who is 50, have lived with since they were both diagnosed.
When people get news that they have multiple sclerosis, many will just lay down and give up, Petrovia said. If they act dead, they might as well consider themselves dead, she said.
"Fight it with all you can and keep living," was her advice to others with the disease. "Especially for your children."
It was less than two years ago that Petrovia was confined to a bed, nearly paralyzed and blind. Once she was able to get around again, her daughter and son, Torey, who are both younger than 10, reacted differently. Her daughter was angry because her mom "left" her for more than a year. Dad is gone for a year when he deploys, Petrovia told her.
"But you're not supposed to," Petrovia said, recalling the conversation with her daughter.
Though Petrovia moved to Fort Hood from Hawaii less than a week ago, she has already found a common bond with Quinones. The two had never met before the event at the store Friday night, but as fans stood in line to get Williams' autograph, they sat and shared their experiences with multiple sclerosis, at times giving each other high fives and knowing nods.
"It doesn't beat you – you beat it," Quinones said of their disease.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547