Monongah woman continues campaign to support multiple sclerosis research
By Kelsie VanderWijst Times West Virginian
PHOTO BY KELSIE VANDERWIJST
Lisa McCombs was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001. Since her diagnosis, McCombs has published multiple books about the disease.
FAIRMONT — Monongah resident and local author Lisa McCombs continues her personal campaign to support multiple sclerosis (MS) research.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, more than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide.
Not only is McCombs an author who writes about the illness to raise awareness, but she also has experienced it firsthand.
She was diagnosed in 2001 after collapsing from what was believed to be a stroke.
“I did not know I had MS. I didn’t know what it was until my son, my only child, was 6 months old,” McCombs said. “Six months after I had him, I totally collapsed. The doctors were kind of confused as to what it was. They treated me as a stroke victim. I was at Ruby Memorial (Hospital) for around 11 days.”
After extensive testing, McCombs saw a neurologist.
“When I finally got to see a neurologist ... he performed a spinal tap, and it came back that MS is exactly what it was,” McCombs said. “I spent the entire summer relearning how to walk and learning how to talk. It was a pretty scary time for me because I was pretty much alone with a newborn. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t take care of him.”
McCombs said she was fortunate throughout her rehab.
“I was very fortunate that I had a lot of family and friends,” McCombs said.
In 2011, she published her first young adult novel, one of a three-part series, about a 12-year-old girl whose mother is diagnosed with the disease.
“I am a retired school teacher, and my students actually helped me write it, so it was their project, too, so we had a lot of fun with that,” McCombs said. “A couple years ago someone asked me, ‘You spend a lot of time writing young adult stories. Why don’t you tell your story?’”
At first, she was not sure because she still felt like she did not know how to deal with her disease.
“But then it dawned on me — maybe it is time. I kept a journal, and so I just started looking back through my journal and reflecting on my journey, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can turn this into something that would help someone,’” McCombs said.
She wrote a nonfiction “survival guide” to living with multiple sclerosis.
March is National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month, and the month has been an adventure for McCombs. Through blogging, McCombs went further into her research of MS and how to deal with it.
“It has been a good adventure for me. In fact, I was contacted by the National MS Society (recently) wanting to know if I wanted to start a self-help group in Marion County,” McCombs said. “Now my goal is to start a new chapter in Marion County.”
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website, “Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is thought to be an immune-mediated disorder, in which the immune system incorrectly attacks healthy tissue in the CNS.”
“MS is just such a questionable disease because nobody knows really what causes it,” McCombs said. “There are four different kinds of MS and they are all string levels of capability. It is just a big mystery.”
After struggles with multiple self-injecting MS drugs, although her doctor says she has to be on something, McCombs decided quality of life is better than quantity.
She wants others with the disease to remember, “You are not alone.”
McCombs will round out National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month with a book-signing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Marion County Public Library.
With March being National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month, McCombs is donating a dollar from the sale of each of her books to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and will pay the postage for books ordered directly from her.