Wilder-Hughes laughs through the pain of multiple sclerosis

Thursday, April 5, 2007
Tina Wilder-Hughes

If she has a choice of laughing or crying in the face of adversity, Tina Wilder-Hughes will laugh.

Even when her body will not cooperate and she falls over doing a simple task like walking across a room, Wilder-Hughes and her family see the humor first -- assuming she hasn't been hurt -- rather than dwelling on the disease that caused the tumble.

Wilder-Hughes was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 15 years ago, shortly after the birth of her first child, Brittany.

"A month after she was born I went blind in my right eye," she said. "They thought I had a brain tumor."

What doctors found was not a brain tumor but chronic progressive MS, the most severe of three forms the disease takes.

Her response was to "just go on with life," she said. "I went to work, to being a mom. I went back to life."

Her vision eventually returned and for about 12 years she was able to do so with relatively few symptoms from the disease. But three years ago her condition worsened. Symptoms still fluctuate, but currently she has lost much of the use of her right arm and uses a walker to get around.

In keeping with her approach, she and her husband, Todd Hughes, had another child two years ago, a son, Devin.

"The doctors didn't want me to be pregnant," she said. "But while I was pregnant I was symptom-free. I call Devin my personal physical therapist."

The annual MS Walk event, scheduled for Saturday, April 28, in Marshall, is an opportunity to educate the public about the disease and about the needs of those who suffer from it, and one message Wilder-Hughes would like to get out to people is that MS sufferers are not defined only by the disease.

"We are not just MS," she said.

She credits her family for providing a good example.

"The best thing they do -- other than carrying me when I can't walk -- they treat me like normal," she said.

Wilder-Hughes is the leader of the local MS support group and said the purpose of that group is similar. It's a way for those with the disease to be with people who understand what they are going through -- and to just be normal.

"We try to stay positive. We don't like to complain about aches and pains. Complaining doesn't work," she said. "We try to make each other laugh."

Brian Lovell, in his third year as Marshall coordinator for the MS Walk, said he hopes the event this year will meet or exceed the $20,000 raised for the cause last year.

Marshall's annual MS Walk was reborn three years ago but has already earned a reputation in the MS Society's Missouri office as one of the biggest events outside the major metropolitan areas, Lovell said.

A number of sponsors have come forward this year, he said, but there is still a need for individuals or teams to join the walk.

The need remains great, he said, noting that an estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. suffer from the disease and as many as 200 new cases occur per week.

Contact Eric Crump at


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