Can Do MS helps Craig native take charge of health
September 19, 2015
Craig — She was only 27 when she got the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.
At first, the symptoms were bothersome, but not that big a deal. Eventually, the pain, nausea and fatigue started to take their toll, leading her to work from home more often and to stop spending time with friends and family.
"I was basically a shut-in," said Craig native Nikki Aragon, now 31. "I wouldn't go out for days at a time, I'd stay in bed quite a bit, and just wouldn't hang out with people."
At such a young age, she began to lose hope that things would ever get better. That is, until she got the opportunity of a lifetime to attend a camp sponsored by Can Do MS in June.
Can Do MS is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with MS to live healthier, happier lives. The camp, known as the CAN DO program, offers an intensive four-day experience to a select group of participants — limited to 24 plus their support partners, such as spouses, family members or friends.
"It was different because it's not like some bigger organizations where it's about research and everything," Aragon said. "It's about wellness and specifically diet and exercise to improve your daily life, not necessarily to get rid of MS but how to feel better on daily basis."
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Both graduates of Moffat County High School, Aragon took her husband, Jerrod Aragon, as her support partner.
"My husband, he learned a lot about it," Aragon said. "So coming back home, he understands a lot more about what I'm going through every day."
The program, which is free to participants, connects people with MS and their support partners with a team of specialists ranging from neurologists to psychologists to physical therapists. The talented team created an individualized lifestyle plan for Aragon, including direction and support for how much and what kind of exercise to get.
"I've been setting goals," she said. "Right now, I'm still working on the exercise part and now I'm running two miles a day and walking two miles a day. I never thought that would help with my fatigue… (but) when I do it, I feel pretty good."
Can Do MS Marketing and Communications Coordinator Alisa Santiesteban sees changes like this in most of the program's participants, including increased confidence in symptom management, increased hope and an improved ability to communicate about living with MS to others.
"When I followed up with her in August, just in hearing her voice, I could sense strength, confidence, hope, happiness and gratefulness," Santiesteban said of Aragon. "To hear her say that the program was amazing and life-changing and to know that she is once again out doing one of her favorite activities, hiking, is why we do what we do at Can Do MS."
Aragon's co-workers, Karra Lutterman and Kathy Lowrey, at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association noticed a change, too, including she works from home much less often now.
"Ever since she came back from the program, there is just a hopefulness about her that wasn't there before, like she recognized that she's not in this alone," Lowrey said. "That there are other people out there that are struggling and fighting the same fight she does and… that she can do it."
To celebrate Can Do Day on Tuesday, Aragon is participating in a photo pledge contest to raise awareness about the organization, in hopes that more people dealing with MS will also be empowered to take control of their health.
"Before, I focused on my health and how it wasn't so great and now I focus on parts of my health that I can control," she said. "I try not to think about the things that are going to happen in the future, I try to focus on what I can do now."
To vote for Aragon's photo before Tuesday, visit http://woobox.com/qikaqt/vote/for/9302614?fb_action_ids=10153755593522985&fb_action_types=og.comments
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.