Ann Hoffke-Anderson of Dassel shares her struggles with MS and about how others can help end the disease
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Waking up one morning and finding herself unable to walk was a very scary thing for Ann Hoffke-Anderson of Dassel. Even scarier was going years without a diagnosis.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, and oftentimes, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, according to the National MS Society.
For Hoffke, her symptoms came on suddenly.
In 2000, she found herself extremely tired one day. The next morning, Hoffke woke up and the entire left side of her body was numb. The room was spinning and she couldn’t walk.
She went from doctor to doctor and took test upon test.
Though MS was thought to be a possibility, it would be two years before Hoffke finally got the diagnosis.
Since MS had been considered a possibility, Hoffke began researching the disease on her own and contacted the MS Society’s Minnesota chapter.
“All the symptoms were pointing towards MS, but getting a clinical diagnosis was more complicated than that,” Hoffke said.
By the time she was diagnosed, Hoffke was familiar with the disease and was relieved that her symptoms finally had a name.
Symptoms, severity, and progress are different with each person suffering from MS.
One of Hoffke’s symptoms is numbness. She says it feels like a low dose of novocaine on the entire left side of her body, though she is still able to feel the pain that is caused by the disease.
Hoffke also suffers from vertigo and can have a hard time keeping her balance without a cane or holding on to something.
MS affects her cognitive abilities with memory loss, confusion, and being able to understand, at times.
The number-one symptom that affects her life the most is fatigue.
“Fatigue prevents me from living what was a normal life for me,” she said.
In 2006, Hoffke quit her job at Hutchinson Technology, where she worked for 19 years.
“I no longer had the strength and energy to perform my job,” Hoffke said.
“Some days, just taking a shower takes all the energy I have,” she added.
Hoffke explained that the fatigue is caused by her body working so hard to fight the disease. She compared it to a cold, and how a person feels run-down and weak.
Oftentimes, she will have to plan ahead and save her energy for upcoming events.
“I usually end up resting the following day,” Hoffke said.
MS is called the “hidden disease” because others don’t know a person has MS just by looking at them, she said.
“Everyone has MS different each day is different,” she said.
“Every day when I wake up, I don’t know if I will be able to walk,” Hoffke said.
“Today is a good day,” Hoffke said.
There is no cure for MS, only medication that can slow the progression and help with some of the symptoms. Hoffke calls it “symptom management.”
“That’s about all they can do for you,” she added.
“You live with it the best you can and take each day as it comes,” Hoffke said.
She suggests people with MS find something they enjoy that will help get them get through the tough days.
For Hoffke, having fresh cut flowers on the kitchen table makes her feel better on those painful days.
Her husband, Phil Anderson, has been “invaluable support” for her, and her dog, Cassie, has helped her in the transition from no longer working.
‘Join the Movement’
The MS Society’s new campaign is titled “Join the Movement,” inviting people to “become a part of the powerful movement that will end MS forever.”
Ways to join the movement include volunteering, participating in different events, donating to the cause, and raising awareness in one’s community.
Hoffke stresses education as part of the “Join the Movement” campaign.
“The more you know, the better it is,” Hoffke said, adding that education is important for those who don’t have the disease, as well as those who do.
Hoffke is the volunteer area coordinator with the Minnesota chapter of the MS Society. She also facilitates two support groups in Hutchinson and Litchfield once a month.
Anyone with the disease, or who knows someone with MS, is welcome to attend.
The Hutchinson support group meets the second Monday of the month at 6:45 p.m. at Christ the King Church.
The Litchfield support group meets the fourth Tuesday of the month at 3 p.m. at Meeker Memorial Hospital.
Hoffke is always open to anyone who just needs to talk about MS, she said.
Joining the movement can also include participating in one of the MS Society’s fundraisers.
In June, a group from Dassel will be taking part in the MS 150 mile bike ride Friday, June 11 to June 13 from Proctor to White Bear Lake.
Participating in the bike ride, under the team name “T.L.S.B.W.H.” (Tired Legs, Sore Butts, Warm Hearts), are Ron and Becky Hungerford, Randy and Marcia Dischinger, and Ralph and Karee Anderson.
Each participant must raise $300 in order to ride, and donations and pledges can be made online at http://bikemnm.nationalmssociety.org under donate/e-pledge.
For more information about MS and how to get involved, visit www.mssociety.org.