Having an experienced physical therapist's familiarity with Multiple Sclerosis did not make the near two-year wait for a confirmed diagnosis any easier for Megan (Mineck) Wentland '01, '03 MPT, '12 DPT.
"I was actually kind of relieved when I got the diagnosis," said Wentland, a therapist with Genesis Visiting Nurses and a resident of LeClaire, Iowa. "I didn't have to wonder what was going on."
One of the first things Wentland did following her MS diagnosis in 2013 was to sign up for the Walk MS: Quad Cities, an annual rite of spring designed to raise awareness of the disease and also raise funds to help research an auto-immune disease that affects the health of more than 2.5 million people worldwide.
On May 17, the mother of three young boys will serve as a co-ambassador of the 2014 Quad Cities fundraising walk, which will begin and end at Bettendorf's Veteran's Memorial Park.
She and her husband Jason will walk with sons Nash, Nolan and Nyle as Team MS Avengers.
"They are my super heroes," she said of the boys, who range in age from 6 to 1, and helped name the team.
Nyle, the youngest, was born mere weeks before Wentland experienced the most severe of the symptoms that telegraphed MS.
"I had him on Aug. 1, 2012, and on Aug. 20, my feet went numb," she said. "Within a few days, the numbness had crept all the way to my rib cage."
In February 2013, a second MRI identified lesions on her spinal cord that confirmed MS. It is what the veteran therapist initially had suspected when she first experienced symptoms in 2011.
She said she has chosen to be an ambassador for the May walk because she initially found comfort in the stories of others fighting through the disease.
"When I found out, what helped me first was my faith, family and friends, but also hearing other people's stories," she said. "I figured that is one of the things that got me through that first dark kind of scary phase, so that is what I want to do for other people. I feel like telling my story and raising awareness is what I want to do right now."
Wentland said she has a relapsing-remitting type of MS, which is the least progressive of four sub-types of the disease, but which still can result in long-term disabilities in up to 40 percent of its infrequent and largely random attack episodes.
"I could wake up and not have my vision tomorrow, or not be able to walk," she said. "There is a possibility of those things. But I have to stay positive and thankful for what I have. I feel really good."
Wentland continues to work, and said the uncertainty of her own health has made her a more empathetic therapist. "I am able to relate to my patients no matter what they are going through, whether it is MS or a knee replacement or pneumonia," she said. "I think this helps you relate to the unknown that people go through when they are sick."