Judy Alonso has an insurance agent to thank for her first MS Walk. He told her his company couldn’t insure her because of her MS, despite her relative good health and lack of symptoms.
Still fuming from that meeting, she saw a stack of MS Walk brochures at the bowling alley where she played on a team.
She grabbed one, thinking, “I’m done with people telling me what I can and can’t do.”
With husband Robert and two others, she completed her first Walk in Tacoma, raising approximately $500, including a $5 donation from the insurance agent. “You won’t insure me, but you’re going to support me,” she told him.
That was in 1998. Judy hasn’t missed a event since. Her team, First American Title Team 1, has grown from four to more than 50 members. Last year, they raised $15,000. This year, Judy’s goal is $17,000.
She’ll likely make it, given the fundraising advantage she has going into this, her 11th Walk. She is the 2008 Walk MS honoree in Tacoma, one of eight such honorees chosen by the Chapter because of the hope they inspire in others.
Judy has been living with MS for 30 years now. When she was 22, she woke up one morning blind in one eye. “It scared me to death,” she said.
The temporary optic neuritis that led to her diagnosis was her only serious symptom for more than a decade. In that time, she talked to no one but her doctor about her MS and even forgot about it herself.
Since starting daily Copaxone injections 10 years ago, denying her MS is no longer an option, but Judy still counts her blessings. Aside from one exacerbation, her symptoms have stayed on the minor side: some tingling, fatigue and lost thoughts. She also has far fewer heat-related problems since moving from her native Texas to the Pacific Northwest.
That cross-country move in 1989 took a leap of faith. With no jobs lined up and the sudden re-emergence of her disease, she and her husband had no idea what to expect. But the change proved positive. “I love it here,” Judy says. “The weather is perfect for me.”
Almost 20 years later, she continues to work full-time, putting her personality to good use as a business systems analyst for First American Title, a company that has supported her and her cause.
“I’m fortunate to have a wonderful job and insurance (turns out she didn’t need that policy she was denied) and a wonderful support system,” she says.
But others aren’t so lucky. And that’s why she walks year after year.
“That first Walk was incredibly emotional for me,” she says. “I saw people with canes and wheelchairs out there on the route. If they can do it, so can I.”