Doctor’s orders: From advocate to patient to advocate, walk to help those living with MS

Published 1:58 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Dr. Joel Edwards had patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

And like a good doctor, he cared for his patients.

He was also a runner and cyclist when he first rode in the Tour to Tanglewood bicycle ride to raise money for MS research. That was in 1997.

“I felt good about raising money for an organization that was making a difference in the lives of people with MS, as well as their families,” he said. “Some of those people were my patients.”

Fifteen years after that first benefit ride, Edwards was diagnosed with MS.

And on Saturday, along with his wife Beth, he is hosting a Walk for MS at the Park at Lake Louise. The couple started that park, now open to the public with walking trails adjacent to Colin Creek Golf Club, 2251 US 64 E.

“We want to invite everyone in the community to join us for the walk (10 a.m.-noon).”

There is no registration or fee, although donations will be accepted for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which supports research and provides resources to MS patients and their families.

Edwards was training for triathalons in the spring of 2013, when he and Dr. Gary Prillaman ran every morning while on a mission trip to Honduras.

“Training was going great, but after coming home, I began to tire much more easily. Within three weeks, I could hardly walk.”

He was diagnosed with MS.

He started treatment immediately, and most symptoms began improving within a few weeks.

“Although I have never been able to return to running – bicycling and swimming have been my activities of choice.”

He and Beth even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2014. It was a slow climb, as he described it, but he made it to the top.

“Since that time, I have had several relatively mild relapses and my MS has progressed slowly as I have aged. Since walking long distances has become harder, I occasionally use a cane.”

He can still ride a bicycle, and still participates in the Tour to Tanglewood, raising money for MS patients.

Sponsors have already made Saturday’s walk a success, so he just wants to see more local residents outside and walking or running, enjoying the park, which includes paths along the lake.

“We hope to see you there,” he said.

Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that can damage nerves in the brain, spinal cord and eyes, and more than 1 million in the United States live with MS.

Symptoms can be mild or disabling, and vary among those with the disease.

“The exact cause of MS is not known,” Edwards said. “However, something triggers a response from the immune system which results in damage to the myelin that surrounds the nerves. Some specialists describe the damage as similar to an electric wire with its insulation removed.”

Treatments vary from patient to patient, he said, but thanks to research funded by NMSS, there have been major advances.