Fatigue, dizziness, some numbness. These are little symptoms that are easy to ignore, but they can be warnings of a bigger problem: Multiple Sclerosis.

More than a million Americans have the disease, a disease that doesn’t discriminate. Now the National MS Society wants South Florida’s LGBT community to know that help is available for patients, their families and caregivers.

Robin Nunley is the president of the South and Mid Florida chapter. She recently told SFGN about their outreach into communities that too often don’t know that there is assistance out there, or think they wouldn’t be eligible because they’re family, not patients.

“MS is a disease that impacts the family, so it is not unusual to see families and caregivers participating in our self-help groups, reaching out to our MS Navigators to have questions answered or get specific guidance,” Nunley said. “What is probably most encouraging, is seeing caregivers, coworkers, families and friends come out to WalkMS to support their loved one’s journey with the disease.”

Most people don’t think they know anyone with MS, but they’re likely wrong. Symptoms often go dormant, meaning the patient is living with MS just fine for the moment and their friends have no idea. Like everyone else, NMSS has had to adjust during the pandemic, meaning fundraisers and community involvement took a hit.

Now they’re having virtual events that raise money and, just as importantly, awareness.

“Volunteering with our organization is a great way to engage in the community and help those with MS,” Nunley said. “Of course, this year has been a bit different with all of our events going virtual, but there are also some virtual opportunities too! We need help making phone calls, working at rest stops, setting up for the events and breaking down, contacting legislators to help pass laws … and of course, our leadership volunteers.”

Doug Bonds is the chair of the Fort Lauderdale Community Council and ambassador for the National MS Society and knows firsthand how the organization helps.

“When my partner and I have needed help the NMSS has always been there no matter what,” he said. “I sometimes feel like the work I do is not enough after all they have done for us.”

The work of NMSS and their teams of volunteers pays off immediately. They provide medical and legal help to patients and their circle, as well as running podcasts, support groups and more. Their MS Navigators help match people with assistance specific to their needs, and are available at 1-800-344-4867.

NMSS isn’t only reaching out to the LGBT outside, Nunley said they’re making employees and volunteers from our community feel welcome through their Inclusive Voices program.

“The fact that MS is present in all populations led us to reflect that diversity internally. We value and welcome diverse perspectives so that everyone feels free to bring their whole selves and contribute fully to our mission,” she said. “We have created an environment that is a SAFE place to talk about challenges, experiences and ideas and we engage, value and empower others, always seeking diverse perspectives.” 

If you or someone you know could benefit from what NMSS offers or want to donate time or money, you can learn more at their website: nationalMSsociety.org.