On 11/23/23, Melissa Sherak Glasser, sat down with Board Member Roland Mesa for an intimate conversation about living with Multiple Sclerosis and to share all the ways the Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation is helping people like her.
Roland: Melissa, thanks for talking to us about the Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation. It’s been ten years since we lost your dad and he sure left a big void. Can you remind us of what his original vision was for this foundation he helped create?
Melissa: This was really important for my dad. He saw very early on when I was diagnosed that living with MS is hard, right? It’s unpredictable. It’s embarrassing at times. You feel alone at times. And he saw that if he could help with certain services and certain quality of life issues, my life would become easier. And so, he wanted that for everyone who suffers from MS. He just wanted life to be easier, so people knew they weren’t alone. They could get the help they needed.
Roland: Terrific. So why then was it called the MS Hope Foundation? What does “hope” even mean?
Melissa: Well, when you realize you’re not alone and other people are listening or they help with whatever it is you need, you get hope. You can focus on living your best life. So the hope is what’s healing.
Roland: Then how is that hope seen in action?
Melissa: So the MS Hope Foundation has been really good with assisting people’s day to day needs such as specialized wheelchairs. Or Standing Frames because standing is so important for circulation, muscles, and bones. There’s also the Bioness walking device that electrically stimulates your leg muscles so that your feet can take steps more easily. Really. You never know what you’re going to wake up with when you have MS. And so things that you might need on a different day to day basis, that’s what they help with.
Roland: Plus some of these things are actually helpful to other family members or caregivers. There is a talking device, right?
Melissa: Yes. It’s called a Novachat tablet. It’s for those who can no longer communicate verbally. This is the thing. And my dad knew this, too. It’s not just one thing or one person with MS. This is also about their families, their caregivers.
Roland: And the other big part of the Foundation is research. What do you think is unique about their approach?
Melissa: The MS Hope Foundation is open to all different types of research. I know that there was some that was looking at regrowing myelin, for instance.
Roland: Well, next question would be, of course, what does “hope” mean for you living with MS all these years?
Melissa: You know, for me, I find life some days is sometimes harder than others. Right? Every day is different. And so having that hope reminds you that tomorrow is a new day and it helps you get through those really, really hard times because life is hard. We’re all feeling that now, I think.
And so to have that little bit of hope that you’re not alone, that people are there with you, that maybe one person understands you and what you’re going through… like… you hold on to that. And that’s what gets you through it.
Roland: Can you give an example maybe of something that happened recently where you felt, despite life being hard or having setbacks, that there is hope?
Melissa: You know, it’s really interesting. Because living with this disease for now, 37 years, I’ve actually redefined “hope” a bunch of times because in the past four months, I’ve fallen twice.
I use my walking stick, but I’m walking, right? So maybe it’s not 20 steps, but it’s three. And I am learning to be so hopeful and grateful for those three steps. And I’m learning to not focus so much on these big things, but these little things. And that’s hope, right?
And so back to those three steps. Okay, so I rest and then I have three more, and yeah, so the MS Hope Foundation gives you those little things that you might need to get to the next three steps.
Roland: Beautiful. Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your story here. And explaining a little bit about what it’s like not only living with MS, but also how the Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation helps others in need, and we wish you the best.
Melissa: Well, thank you. And “Please give until it feels good!” as my dad would say.
Please consider giving a Year End Donation to the Tom Sherak MS Hope Foundation by clicking here.