Nicole Beckum, a Craig Middle School math teacher, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2003. She said, "I have the disease for a reason." Perhaps that reason is helping other local residents with the disease. Beckum and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will launch an MS support group beginning Sept. 17.

Photo by Jerry Raehal

Nicole Beckum, a Craig Middle School math teacher, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2003. She said, "I have the disease for a reason." Perhaps that reason is helping other local residents with the disease. Beckum and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will launch an MS support group beginning Sept. 17.

Symptoms of sharing

CMS teacher hoping support group makes lives easier

If you go

What: Multiple sclerosis support group

When: 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 17

Where: Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, 745 Russell St.

For more: Call the VNA at 824-8233. The support group meetings will take place on the third Monday of each month.

photo

Nicole Beckum, a Craig Middle School math teacher, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2003. She said, "I have the disease for a reason." Perhaps that reason is helping other local residents with the disease. Beckum and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will launch an MS support group beginning Sept. 17.

— Awooden placard hangs above the doorway of Nicole Beckum's second-floor classroom at Craig Middle School. The phrase on the board reads a simple, but apt, message:

"Find the good in every day."

The sign isn't all that atypical and wholly conforms with other signs in the room espousing the benefits of academia, peace and reminding students that "courage is doing right when everyone around you is doing wrong." And it's certainly not out of character for Beckum, an educator of nearly 10 years, who's now trying to help more than just the kids in her classroom.

Not that she wants anyone to know it, but Beckum has been contributing to local efforts to found a multiple sclerosis support group. The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association also has been a big backer, Beckum said.

"There are so many people in this area with MS who don't know the resources that are out there," she said. ": The group is meant to provide assurance and support, which will hopefully lead to a better quality of life."

The first meeting of the support group is scheduled to run from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Craig VNA office, 745 Russell St. The support group is designed to provide MS patients, care partners and family members a platform to "discuss concerns and frustrations as well as accomplishments," Beckum said.

It's also a venue for M.S. patients to share tried and true ways to control or ease symptoms commonplace with the unpredictable disease, and information about new medications, financial assistance and equipment that could make everyday activities easier.

Beckum, now 36, was diagnosed with MS three years ago. She said the disease, a chronic condition that attacks the central nervous system, causes a variety of symptoms including imbalance, blurred or loss of vision, fatigue, impairment and pain, among numerous others.

It primarily affects adults and is more common in women than in men.

The added difficulty with MS, Beckum said, lies with its erratic behavior.

"You just don't know from one day to the next if your body is going to work with you," she said.

But, instead of letting the disease take over, Beckum said patients can help themselves by being educated. She doesn't want anyone feeling sorry for her, and others with MS.

Kathy Darveau, one of two Craig VNA social workers who will help coordinate the MS support group, said the group is a first-time venture for the Craig VNA. The VNA hopes the group will make a difference in people's lives, she said.

"We want to be supportive to those individuals who have MS and their families," Darveau said. "We're offering it to anyone in Moffat County and the surrounding area who would like to attend."

The Craig support group is hoping to gain the support of an MS foundation in Grand Junction. The foundation already has pledged to have a representative speak during the first group meeting later this month.

Beckum said she feels like she has MS for a reason. Perhaps that reason is appreciating each day, or being able to help someone else afflicted with MS.

"If I can have one person feel more comfortable : then it makes having the disease worthwhile," she said.

For more information on the multiple sclerosis support group, call Darveau or Sandy Beran at the VNA at 824-8233. The group is open to the public.

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