(WYTV) – This week is National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. MS is an autoimmune disorder that affects each person who has it in a different way. It can be incredibly painful and cause symptoms like numbness, memory loss or speech, vision and swallowing trouble.
Right now, there is no cure yet and nearly 1 million people live with it every day in the United States. We met one of those people, who is an inspiration to everyone as to what it means to fight and thrive.
At 24, Nick Giangiordano was serving as a Marine on a tour in Iraq.
“I loved every minute of it, loved putting on the uniform,” he said.
But in 2007, his life changed forever.
“I started feeling numbness in my feet. Next day after that was my hips down then another day chest down,” he said.
Giangiordano was sent to a hospital in Germany, where he was diagnosed with MS and medically discharged from the military. He was not only thrown into civilian life, but also life with a disease he’d never heard of.
“I felt lost for a really long time. As I said yesterday, I went into some really dark places. I didn’t know what I was gonna do or where I was gonna go or who I was gonna have in my corner,” he said.
That’s when Giangiordano’s now-wife Adrienne stepped in and became his support, even on the toughest days.
“She is my stronghold. She is my everything. She’s my number one supporter,” he said.
Since his diagnosis, there have been relapses that have put Nick in the hospital and even a wheelchair.
“He attempted to stand up and fell on the ground so I had to pick him up and carry him down a flight of stairs,” Adrienne said.
But Nick was determined, with his doctor’s help, to walk again.
“I wanted to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle one day. I wanted to show people that you can, if it’s within your power, to overcome something like this,” he said.
Now, Nick runs with his three kids and walks for those who can’t at MS walks. It’s this week that reminds people living with MS that there is support, especially from the MS Society.
“Now more than ever is a time to be hopeful and I hope people realize they are not alone,” said Sam Villella, an MS Society district activist leader.
In the MS Society’s 75 years, research has brought medicine a long way, but they are determined to find a cure.
“Someday that we will be able to tell people, ‘You have MS, but it’s never gonna be worse than you have it today,'” Villella said.
And for people who see Nick, he’s a reminder of that.
“You are living with this disease, it does not own you,” Adrienne said.
There are a lot of ways you can support the MS Society’s research, like the virtual MS walk coming up on May 1. For more information on the walk or for MS resources, visit the National MS Society’s website.