Find a Cure for a "Funny Sounding Disease"

Shannon Hoelzel, ambassador for the 2006 Christopher & Banks MS Walk presented by Serono/Pfizer, wants to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis. And by educating other people about MS, Hoelzel knows she can play a vital role in fighting the disease.

A Plymouth, MN, native, Hoelzel joined the fight against MS as a little girl. She remembers sitting on the lap of a woman from church while the woman explained why she used a scooter. Hoelzel didn’t understand how her friend could have an illness. She said, “I remember thinking, ‘Multiple sclerosis? What a weird name. My friend doesn’t look sick to me.’” It was then that Hoelzel decided she wanted to help find a cure for her friend’s “funny-sounding disease.”

Today, Hoelzel is 27 years old. She’s still fighting MS. But now she’s doing it for another reason—MS is her disease, too. As a child participating in National MS Society fund-raisers, she never would have guessed that at 26 years old, she herself would receive a MS diagnosis.

Hoelzel first knew something was wrong when she started experiencing fatigue during college. “I drifted from major to major, year after year,” she recalled. “When the migraine headaches started, I moved home to Minneapolis.”

After seeing several doctors, Hoelzel was left with no explanation. In an attempt to move forward, she refocused her energy on physical fitness. “I gained five pounds of pure muscle in three months,” she said. “I was in the best shape of my life.”

But then Hoelzel’s vision started to blur and double. Fatigue began to interfere with her workout routine. In December 2004, after a visit to a neurologist, she received an explanation—multiple sclerosis.

In the months that followed, Hoelzel began to learn to balance her MS symptoms with other aspects of her life. “Fatigue has been a challenge,” she admitted. “I usually feel like I’m in a fog.” She has learned to manage her fatigue by taking naps and going to bed early.

Also, Hoelzel said her worldview has changed. “MS has taught me that life is uncertain. But I don’t take my health for granted anymore. I stay positive.”

Despite her symptoms, Hoelzel isn’t letting MS stop her from doing the things she loves to do, like water sports and camping. This summer, she hopes to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and then back up.

Today Hoelzel looks forward to going back to school to prepare for a career in healthcare. In addition, she is taking action by working with the National MS Society, Minnesota Chapter to spread awareness of MS. “I want to make a difference, and I want a cure for MS,” she says. “I believe there is another little girl out there who knows without a doubt that someday she’ll help find a cure for this funny-sounding disease.”

Join the Fight Against MS

Meet Shannon Hoelzel at the Christopher & Banks MS Walk presented by Serono/Pfizer Sunday, May 7, in the Twin Cities. For more information, visit www.theMSwalk.com or call 1-800-FIGHT-MS.