Multiple Sclerosis Patient Now Helps Others in Program That Gave Her Life Back
Six years ago, Bonnie Norton of Londonderry was diagnosed with MS. A year later she had to leave the job she loved as assistant director at a daycare center. She felt like her life had ended.
“I went into a depression and laid around in bed all day watching my DVR programs,” Bonnie said. “I didn’t go anywhere. I was not social. I wasn’t me anymore.”
MS Mentor Bonnie Norton in the therapy pool
Then she was introduced to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Wellness Program at CHMG Neurology Associates. Bonnie was paired with a mentor who was a MS patient as well, and, with a grant through the program to support patient wellness plans, she obtained a gym membership for access to a therapy pool and monthly massages to help ease muscle spasms. It was more than a physical turning point.
“I chose the plan for my physical well-being, but, as a whole—socially, emotionally and physically—the program helped me,” said Bonnie, who is 56.
Now, she helps others as a mentor.
“I wanted to pay it forward and help other people find their own wellness plan,” she said.
Bonnie speaks of helping one mentee regain one of the joys of life before MS— bicycling with her family and friends.
Annual girlfriends’ vacation bike trips on Martha’s Vineyard had been a highlight, but after her illness, the mentee couldn’t participate. She drove her friends’ bikes to a riding spot, then waited for them to return. She had looked into finding a modified bike but hadn’t been motivated to follow through. That’s exactly how mentors like Bonnie help. She and her mentee pulled out their smartphones, began researching appropriate bikes and eventually found an oversized battery-assisted tricycle with a big basket. The wellness grant covered the purchase and Bonnie’s mentee was back on the road, even decorating the bike, loading her grandchildren in the basket and riding in a parade.
“It was nice for me to see her be happy about something that made her so sad, and to know I was part of that,” Bonnie said.
Their common bond makes mentors the backbone of the Wellness Program.
“I know that MS patients need help, need a voice looking for things that fit their needs and wants, and need an ear from someone who also has MS and understands,” Bonnie said.
After her own one-year wellness grant expired, Bonnie renewed her gym membership on her own. She is stronger, has more stamina, is more stable while walking and feels better about herself. She’s also become confident enough to take on a new role in helping promote the program at conferences.
It’s a far cry from the down days of watching TV for hours.
“I didn’t feel like me anymore, but now, I’m a new me, a better me,” Bonnie said.