Wonder Woman
March 5, 2011 2:29 PM   Subscribe

She's completed ten marathons, climbed 6.5 of the Seven Summits, and she's preparing to dogsled to the North Pole. Wendy Booker also has multiple sclerosis. Interview with Craig Ferguson.
posted by kmz (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Way to make the rest of us look bad, Wendy.
posted by adamrice at 3:07 PM on March 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Did she have a Chinese mother?
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 3:32 PM on March 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Ditto adamrice. This is clearly not the same MS my close friend has.
posted by dmvs at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Awesome for her! But yeah, can't deny that I dread relatives and other busybodies finding stuff like this. "Why aren't you working?" Nobody will hire me for a sit-down job, and I'm not good at the while walking/standing thing. "Well SHE'S disabled and climbed a mountain! Stop being so lazy!" Aaaaaargh
posted by jtron at 4:43 PM on March 5, 2011

She's amazing. I climbed the local hill and took one geriatric dog for a walk. Does that count?
posted by greenhornet at 5:03 PM on March 5, 2011

Oh sure. SINGULAR sclerosis isn't good enough for Wendy Booker. Nooooo. She's gotta have MULTIPLE sclerosis. Sheesh. Over-achiever. Makin' us all look bad.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:23 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Motivational speaker now? Please, no.
posted by emhutchinson at 7:10 PM on March 5, 2011

Where does she get the money to do this? Not dissing her, just curious.
posted by autoclavicle at 8:02 PM on March 5, 2011

This is clearly not the same MS my close friend has.

There are several kinds. My neighbor has the relapsing-remitting type (like President Bartlett!), and she is a Pilates goddess who runs her dog around the lake twice a day. I sometimes wonder, from my vantage point on the couch, if a condition like that would inspire me to test my physical boundaries, but I have a suspicion that I'd just take it as a sign to chill that much harder.
posted by padraigin at 8:34 PM on March 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

padraigin: I sometimes wonder, from my vantage point on the couch, if a condition like that would inspire me to test my physical boundaries, but I have a suspicion that I'd just take it as a sign to chill that much harder.

I set the realistic goal of teaching my young kids to play and love baseball before things got debilitating, and here I am this spring coaching high school Babe Ruth league 19 years later. On the flip side I'll nod to jtron and take out a tiny soapbox, only in the past decade have the cognitive dimensions of the disease really been recognized and foregrounded. The irony being that at the same time I started my kids in baseball, my career in research on cognition and learning was being derailed by symptoms not recognized by my doctors of the time as primary to the disease, and that are still largely not treatable. I can still play tennis, just don't expect me to remember your name.
posted by cgk at 8:57 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

What does it mean to climb 6.5 summits? She only got halfway up one of them?
posted by grouse at 11:05 PM on March 5, 2011

I'd love to be able to view the world through the eyes of someone who can do these things. I'm not hating on the remarkable woman but the bit of her brain which says "I will climb this mountain" is not in my brain. My brain says, "it's a fucking mountain, why would you want to climb that".

I'm not hating on me either, I like my brain and perhaps the bits which stop me climbing mountains help me in other ways. Still, it would be nice to see how it feels, what the motivations are, what mountains look like for someone who "just does it".

For a day.

posted by fullerine at 12:19 AM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Halfway up Everest. Or a bit more than half.
posted by davidmsc at 2:24 AM on March 6, 2011

My nephew's wife has some kind of MS, and it's not like the 2 friends who have it. My friends are primarily physically affected. My niece passes out. She doesn't volunteer information about her health, and I won't pry. If anyone would care to direct my attention, I'd like to understand this.
posted by Goofyy at 2:50 AM on March 6, 2011

Very cool. It's interesting to see the tasks she has taken on. Heat is well-known to make MS symptoms worse, so people with MS are often advised to avoid strenuous exercise that would raise the core body temperature. So walking is fine (as long as you are not too weak or dizzy to do it safely), but running is often discouraged. It's probably good that so many of the places she goes (mountain tops, poles) are cold.

This is clearly not the same MS my close friend has.

There are, in fact, several kinds of MS. What they have in common is that the body's immune system attacks the myelin surrounding nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is like the insulation on electrical wires, except for your nerves. When this insulating myelin breaks down, the nerve signals may not be transmitted all the way to where they were going, or they might even jump to different nerves. Imagine a bundle of electrical wires where a mouse has chewed through the insulation, that's basically what it is.

The way the disease manifests in any individual depends strongly on the amount and location of the damage. If the myelin surrounding a nerve going to your left leg gets attacked, you'll probably have weakness or numbness in that area, or maybe spasticity and cramping. If the optic nerve is attacked, you may have vision loss. If the myelin around the 8th cranial nerve is attacked, dizziness and hearing loss are possibilities. Nerves go different places and do different things, so the effects of MS depend on which nerves are affected.

In relapsing-remitting MS, the most common kind and likely what Booker has, immune attacks on the myelin come and go, lasting 24 hours to maybe 2 weeks. New, sometimes debilitating but hopefully temporary, symptoms can appear during these attacks. In between attacks the body can repair some of the damage, which is why some symptoms may appear and then disappear. Unfortunately the repair is not perfect, and eventually the nervous system ends up with many areas of scarring (hence "multiple sclerosis") that accumulate and tend to cause permanent disability. Some people have frequent attacks (several each year) while others may go years without an attack. The goal of the injection therapy that Booker talks about in that interview is to prevent these attacks by calming the immune system. People with other types of MS, especially the progressive versions, don't have these attacks and remissions -- instead, their nervous system is constantly being attacked. Obviously their symptoms tend to progress much more quickly.

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week is March 14-20 this year. If someone you know has been affected by this disease, you might consider donating to The National MS Society, a nonprofit that funds education and support for people with MS as well as research to look for ways to prevent and cure this disease. They also do fund-raising and awareness-raising walks and bike rides throughout the year.
posted by vytae at 12:24 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

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