Thirty-five-year-old Asia Armstrong thought she was having a stroke eight years ago.
"I was fine, and then the next day my whole left side was numb," she said. "It was like night and day. My husband took me to the hospital. They said I wasn't having a stroke. They thought I pulled a muscle."
Her conditioned worsened, and it was difficult for her to walk and grasp things with her hands.
In May 2006, Armstrong was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, which is characterized by clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. The attacks are often called relapses or flare-ups, and they're followed by partial or complete recovery periods when symptoms improve partially or completely, with no apparent progression of disease.
"There are periods of time I'm in remission and won't experience any attacks or systems," Armstrong said. "It was scary. In my head, I thought it was a death sentence. It has been quite the journey."
Today she manages her MS through exercise, diet and a monthly infusion.
On Saturday, April 12 she will participate with her family in the Columbus Walk MS, presented by Novartis, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell.
The Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is hosting Walk MS to raise funds for local programs, services and medical research.
Armstrong, a Gahanna resident and central Ohio school administrator, said no one would be able to tell she has MS by looking at her.
"Now there are so many options for treatment," she said. "You can still live a long, healthy life. It's very manageable if you stay up on meds, watch what you eat and go to the doctor."
When she was diagnosed, Armstrong said, she didn't regularly exercise.
"I couldn't run one full time around the track," she said.
Armstrong decided to walk for exercise, and then she began running, even completing half marathons in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
"When I run, I feel the most normal," she said. "I feel the most healthy and the most like me prior to this diagnosis. It shocks people to hear me say that. I wasn't a gym-rat type of person. Now I have to run or do something. It makes me feel good mentally and emotionally."
This year she has set a goal to participate in a run or walk every month.
"April's event will be the Walk MS at the zoo," Armstrong said. "You can create a team. My team is the Asia's Victory Alliance. People can go to the MS Society website to look up my team or others and donate money that goes to MS research."
Guyla Wehman, spokesperson for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Ohio Buckeye Chapter, said the Columbus Walk MS is an opportunity to inspire others to join the fight against multiple sclerosis and to show support for those living with the chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system.
More than 20,000 Ohioans are believed to be affected by multiple sclerosis, with symptoms ranging from fatigue, numbness and weakness to total paralysis.
Wehman said the goal for the Columbus Walk MS is to raise $421,000 with 3,000 walkers, who will check in at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, April 12.
"We want to raise awareness and raise funds to help people with MS," said Janet Kramer, Ohio Buckeye Chapter president. "Our ultimate goal is to create a world free of MS."
Armstrong said anyone diagnosed with MS should try to stay positive.
"I think the worst is to have a negative outlook," she said. "I firmly believe what you fill your mind with is what you have. Stay active and positive. I think we can train our bodies what we want to do. Listen to what doctors say, hear what they have to say and make the best decision in regard to the treatment for you."
For more information about multiple sclerosis or Walk MS, call 1-800-344-4867 or visit MSohiowalk.org.