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Ann Hayes: In her own words about MS

Ann Hayes is this year’s Walk MS: Bemidji ambassador. Here, she talks about her journey toward acceptance of her multiple sclerosis and how acceptance does not equate to giving up.

"I talk to people now about the fact I accepted where I’m at, but I’m not giving up. …

"I had the unfortunate experience of telling someone, after my episode and I was able to walk and function again, that I accepted where I am at but I need to go on.

"And she said, ‘Oh so you’re giving up.’

"I was devastated when she said that and that sort of thing wouldn’t normally affect me, but I was fresh off the acceptance train.

"That was hard. …

"Most people didn’t even know that I didn’t accept it. I didn’t talk about it and I seemed cheery enough.

"But it was kind of getting hard. I would start wobbling from chair to chair and table to table through the pub, greeting customers. Pretty soon I thought, ‘You know, this doesn’t look so good as a pub owner,’ so I started using a cane.

"Even with the cane, then people would ask me, ‘So did you hurt your knee?’ or ‘What’d you do?’ …

"A very innocent question, but it happened to be at a time when I was still not able to say it hardly, so I would have to work up the courage to say I had MS.

"Or I’d say, ‘I ran smack into a wall; it’s called MS.’ I would always try to bring the humor to it, but I was seething inside.

"But when I got to that point (of acceptance), I realized what a difference there is between someone who is putting up with it and ignoring it and hoping it will go away, and someone who has had to accept it.

"Some people do it out of the grace of their heart, but I was forced into it, kicking and screaming.

"There are a lot of other people that way. Anytime I think that there’s a loss obviously, a loss of something, not everybody gets to that acceptance stage. …

"I’ve met a number of people with MS or other autoimmune disease who have never been able to talk about it. …

"They’re mad and they really don’t think it’s going to be part of their life forever; they’re hoping to God it won’t be. …

"I really look at the walk and being ambassador as an opportunity, to invite those people, anyone that has a condition, whether it’s MS or not, any condition that they really cannot accept …

"The walk is an opportunity for acceptance, if you’re ready for that.

"If not, come and walk anyway. Maybe we can help you get there.

"But don’t make the mistake of thinking that acceptance means giving up."