It used to take Debbie Shearer two hours to make her home immaculate.
Housework is now a four-day ordeal.
Multiple sclerosis will do that to a person.
But Shearer is determined that MS is going to do its least to her, so she still does the cleaning, however long it takes, and she still does daily exercise, no matter how exhausting it might be.
"If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to stand," the Grove City woman said.
Shearer and her husband of 10 years, Chuck Shearer, have organized a support group for people in the Grove City area who have multiple sclerosis or whose lives are affected by the autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
Initially they wanted to start a group for couples. However, after hearing from some single people in the Grove City area who have MS and who wanted the opportunity to meet with others who absolutely know what they are going through, the Shearers decided to open it up to anyone.
The Grove City MS Support Group meets the last Monday of the month at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is handicap accessible.
For the Shearers, multiple sclerosis came into their lives after they had joined theirs. Both were previously married; between them, have five children and five grandchildren.
They met in a grocery store in Grove City.
It wasn't long after they had wed and settled on a family physician that Debbie Shearer came to a startling discovery.
"I didn't even realize it, but I had double vision," she said.
Practically without conscious thought, Debbie Shearer had been keeping one eye closed to do things like read and drive to compensate for the condition, but once it became apparent she went to their doctor. He, in turn, sent her to an ophthalmologist who ordered a magnetic resonance imaging. The test revealed some lesions on her nerve fibers, but no definitive diagnosis was made.
A few years later, other symptoms showed up: fatigue and forgetfulness. It was back to the doctor for Debbie Shearer and back once again for an MRI. This time, the extent of the lesions left no doubt what was wrong with her.
Debbie Shearer received the diagnosis on April 12, 2002.
"The first question out of my mouth was, 'Am I going to die from this?' " she recalled. "He said, 'No, but it is going to change your lifestyle.'
"It was a real blow when I was diagnosed with this, that maybe our life wasn't going to be the same."
It hasn't been, but it has gone on, even though as time went by it became apparent Debbie has one of the more severe types of MS, called "primary progressive." The most common form is "relapsing remitting," in which symptoms like diminished motor skills or vision problems strike, but then abate. People with primary progressive "gradually keeping getting more symptoms, more lesions, but they don't go away," Debbie Shearer said.
"When she loses something, it doesn't come back," Chuck Shearer said.
Physical therapy and now daily exercise have helped Debbie Shearer recover some of the mobility and strength the disease sought to steal from her.
"Chuck's just bent over backwards," Debbie Shearer said, pointing out that her husband took a cut in pay from his job as general manager and human resources director of a manufacturing facility in Newark in order to have Fridays off to spend more time with her and take her to appointments.
He's even gladly made the "flip-flop" in seasons that is forced on many people with MS, Debbie Shearer said. Sensitive to heat, they tend to "hibernate" in the summer and are out and about more often in the winter months.
The Shearers decided to start a support group after attending some National Multiple Sclerosis Society events and learning about similar gatherings around the country. The idea with this support group, as with any other, is simply to share ideas and experiences, traumas and triumphs.
Officials with the MS Ohio Buckeye Chapter have been very supportive of their efforts, Chuck Shearer said.
Only a few meetings of the group have been held and so far only a few people have turned up, he said, but that's OK. While the Shearers would like to see the size of the Grove City MS Support Group increase, any help they can give and get is greatly appreciated.
"There's been a very nice bonding opportunity," Chuck Shearer said.
For more information, call Chuck and Debbie Shearer at 871-4800 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.