PM Alum Living and Coping with MS

By Kira Hess –

From diagnosis to present day, Kim Shenk, a Penn Manor alumni, has been living with MS.

“I have RR MS, which is the relapsing-remitting, multiple sclerosis,” said Shenk of Lancaster County. She is a wife and mother of two and a very happy, outgoing woman who doesn’t let having MS bring her down.

Shenk graduated from Penn Manor and both of her daughters attend Pequea Elementary. She works in a doctor’s office and enjoys helping others.

About 65-80 percent of people who have MS begin with relapsing-remitting MS, where individuals deal with symptoms that may completely or partially disappear, until another attack occurs.

“I wasn’t really too surprised when I found out I had MS. I knew something was wrong with me, I just didn’t have a name for it yet,” said Shenk.

Others living with MS may have blurred, doubled or a loss of vision. Other symptoms include weakness, muscle spasms, fatigue, numbness and prickling pain, loss of sensation, tremors and dizziness. Half of those who have MS experience mental challenges, loss of memory, and concentration.

“MS is very humbling,” said Shenk, who was diagnosed in 2006. “Some of the symptoms are embarrassing. I’ve had double vision, cognitive issues…that’s what bothered me the most. If I read something as simple as a recipe, I’d have to read it again and again.”

Shenk also mentioned numbness and major itching down her one side, “I’d scratch but it wouldn’t go away.”

She has dealt with nerve pain in her hand and had trouble walking at one time a couple of years ago. She also has suffered from severe fatigue which often goes along with another symptom.

There are also those with RR MS who can enter a phase where disability accumulates. This is called secondary progressive or SP MS. Fifty percent of individuals will develop this advanced form of MS within 10 years despite the use of treatment. This could include, but is not limited to, becoming wheel-chair bound or having permanent visual problems.

“The biggest impact in my life was that I wanted to have more kids. However, because you don’t have a guarantee that you’ll be able to take care of them, and I realize there’s no guarantees in life but…I don’t want to risk not being able to be there. I have two beautiful little girls and I’m happy with them,” said Shenk.

Scientists are working on shots similar to a vaccination to prevent MS, since they believe it has a hereditary role, for children that have MS running in their family. Shenk stated that she would definitely get her daughters, Hannah and Caroline, the shots when they come out.

“A couple of years ago it had more of an effect on me than it does now, I feel like my medicine is working, and I don’t have as many cognitive problems now. I feel very blessed and I’m doing very well. I’m able to have a normal life.”

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