Re-Blog: Living and Working with MS, ClaySun.com
In the spirit of MS Awareness week, check out this great article by Cari Boyce for Clay Sun.Re-blogged with permission. Original article here.
As a child, Jacksonville native Eric Twisdale wanted to be a police officer. In 1995, he achieved his goal and joined the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer. Three years later, he joined the force at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and has since celebrated 16 years with that agency and attained the rank of sergeant.
But despite his success, after only a few years of service, Twisdale experienced symptoms that threatened the life he worked to build.
“In June 1999, my body went numb from the chest down,” Twisdale said. “Doctors initially attributed this to a bruised spinal cord sustained in a wreck two weeks earlier when a dump truck collided with the police vehicle I was driving.”
An unexpected diagnosis
Doctors expected the symptoms to improve, but they persisted and Twisdale began to experience fatigue that interfered with his active lifestyle and, potentially, his career. Police work often is physically demanding, and Twisdale, who is part of the special operations and community relations team, also was — and still is — on the hostage negotiating team as well as the dive team.
“On April 4, 2001, nearly two years after the symptoms appeared and after many additional tests and nerve conduction studies, an MRI led to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” Twisdale said. “For me, the only course of action was to be proactive when it came to handling this disease.”
Multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease that involves an immune system attack against the central nervous system.
Twisdale realized quickly that his diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS was not an immediate threat to his career, his activity level or his quality of life. He chose to avoid self pity by becoming more involved, more active.
In September 2001, just five months after his diagnosis, he completed his first Bike MS event, the MS 150 — a 150-mile, two-day bicycle trek from St. Augustine to Daytona and back. He has since completed five MS 150s and joined the planning committee after completing that first ride. By 2002 he became involved with the National MS Society as an MS Ambassador.
“It is important to remain active but [also to] listen to your body and heed the signals that tell you to slow down,” he said. “For me, the MS diagnosis was more incentive to remain active and find ways to educate and help people understand and cope with the disease.”
Rising to the challenge
Twisdale believes living well with MS means setting goals, doing his best to achieve them and always keeping a positive attitude. He has turned his diagnosis into a positive experience for himself and others. He takes advantage of each opportunity to educate, helping others cope with the difficulties associated with the disease. He also helps raise money to fund research for treatments and a cure.
Twisdale speaks at National MS Society-sponsored events, as well as Biogen Idec, a pharmaceutical company specializing in pharmaceutical therapies to combat the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
In addition, Twisdale and his fellow officers support and participate in events like MuckFest MS Jacksonville, scheduled for March 22 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, Walk MS in April, On the Move Luncheon scheduled for May 8 at the Garden Club of Jacksonville and Bike MS scheduled for Sept. 20-21.
“The Sheriff’s office — from the sheriff on down — have been very supportive over the years,” said Twisdale. “The support of my coworkers and my family has meant a great deal and has helped me cope. My family is the backbone of my support system and, with them by my side, I can face anything.
“At speaking events, I talk about my experience, about how each person experiences the disease differently and the importance of three things: keeping faith in God, maintaining a sense of humor and recognizing the importance of taking the time to do things you enjoy.”
Twisdale went on to cite one of his favorite inspirational quotations.
“H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, ‘Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.’”
All Clay County law enforcement officers are required to pass a physical agility test every other year. The test is no small task requiring strength, agility, endurance and speed. Twisdale passed his most recent test in February. For more information on MuckFest MS Jacksonville and other fundraising events, visit nationalmssociety.org. Additional resources are available at msactivesource.com.