Looking at Henderson resident Valerie Sweet, people might not know the battles she goes through.
“You look at me and think I look perfectly fine,” she said, walking around the preschool where she works. “Everyone is fighting a battle. For some, it’s just invisible.”
Sweet has been living with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder, for more than a decade. Even though she has her struggles, she is determined to push through and have a normal life.
She is an active member of the Southern California and Nevada Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and plans to participate in the Walk MS at 8:30 a.m. April 26 at Sunset Park, 2601 E. Sunset Road.
The event raises money and awareness for the organization.
Linda Lott, director of the Nevada chapter, said walkers come together to celebrate the progress made against the disease.
Many people at the event can relate to Sweet’s story. One morning, Sweet started to get out of bed. Her tingling legs wobbled, unable to support her.
“I took a couple days off from work,” she said.
After returning, her foot was still numb.
“Someone noticed I was dragging my back foot,” she said.
She was encouraged to see a specialist, who diagnosed her with the disease. Her younger sister was diagnosed years later.
“It’s so bad she needs a wheelchair,” Sweet said.
Looking back over the symptoms, Sweet thinks she had the disease since she was in her early 20s.
Her doctor recommended that she take a medicine — a type of injection — to help with the disease. However, Sweet didn’t have insurance, and the medicine cost $1,500 a month. Sweet told her doctor she wasn’t going on medicine because of its cost.
“I said I was going to change my diet and do moderate exercise to help,” she said. “My doctor returned my money and asked me to leave.”
The doctor refused her as a patient because Sweet wouldn’t undergo the treatments she couldn’t afford.
“I started crying so hard on the way home I had to pull over,” she said.
Sweet eventually went on the medication years later. Over the years, she has had her ups and downs with flareups that left her in bed for days. But those days haven’t stopped her from living her life.
“I’m going to fight this all the way,” she said. “I think it has a lot to do with my faith.”
Four years ago, Sweet started participating the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s walk.
“The first walk was phenomenal,” she said. “Everyone was really supportive.”
Her team name is Hope Sweet Hope.
“A nice play on words,” she said.
Her second year, the organization named Sweet its most inspirational person.
“I was a little embarrassed,” she said. “I had no idea. I went on stage and thanked my family. No matter what challenges I faced, they were my firm foundation.”
Sweet was also one of the top fundraisers in her region the last two years.
She organized fundraisers at restaurants and a parents’ night out, which allowed parents to leave their children at an event with games and activities for $15.
“What parent wouldn’t love that,” Sweet said, “especially when it costs $15? A normal babysitter is $10 an hour.”
Sweet knew the community would get involved, but she could never have realized how much. She was able to raise more than $3,000. This year, she said her goal is at least $2,000. She is already at $1,375.
“But I know the community will surpass it,” she said.
For more information, visit nationalmssociety.org.
Contact Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201. Follow on Twitter @mjlyle.