By Rick Morwick
By all outward appearances, Sydney Smith is a healthy 24-year-old with no physical abnormalities. But as is the case with most multiple sclerosis victims, her daily torments are largely unnoticed.
Except by her.
“I have a (disability) hang tag so that I can park in closer spots when I have a bad day, but I feel hesitant to use them because I can feel people’s eyes on me,” said Smith, a Carmel resident who battles constant pain and numbness, among other pronounced MS symptoms. “A common response I get (after) telling people about my diagnosis is, ‘You don’t look sick,’ or, ‘But you’re so young.’
“I do feel lucky that I have age on my side and that my good days outweigh my bad.”
But Smith’s goal for herself and for all MS sufferers is to have no bad days as a result of the debilitating disease, which attacks the brain and spinal cord. It is the most common neurological disease leading to disability in young adults. Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, blindness and paralysis.
Although MS can strike at any age, it most commonly affects people between the ages of 15 and 50. There is no cure, which is why events like the April 21 Walk MS event at White River State Park in Indianapolis are important to Smith.
Established in 1988, Walk MS is the largest MS event in Indiana. Last year’s walk drew more than 2,100 participants and raised more than $349,000 for MS research. This year’s event is expected to have at least 2,500 participants — including Smith, who participated in her first walk in 2014 a few months after her diagnosis.
“To me, Walk MS is such a special event because it’s this amazing outpouring of support, with the time leading up to the day of the walk as well as this indescribable energy on the day of the walk,” said Smith, a family connections coordinator for Connections Academy. “With how much is going into research and development of new treatments, I am optimistic that we will get to a cure within my lifetime.”
Registration begins at 8 a.m. at White River State Park’s Celebration Plaza, 801 W. Washington St., Indianapolis. The walk begins at 10 a.m. For more, visit walkMS.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-372-1331.