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UPDATED: Multiple sclerosis a family affair for Posners

Saugus mother and daughter team for Sunday's ‘Walk MS’ at Rose Bowl

Posted: March 28, 2009 8:47 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2009 10:09 a.m.

Between 5,000-6000 people of all sizes and shapes converged on the Rose Bowl last year to help raise funds to battle multiple sclerosis. This year's "Walk MS" is set for Sunday, April 19.

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For the Posners of Saugus, Calif., the fight to beat multiple sclerosis is a family affair.

Karla Posner, 47, and one of her four children, Samantha, 17, both have MS, as it's more commonly known, a potentially crippling disease that attacks the central nervous system causing numbness and pain, but can be controlled with medication. Posner's older sister and one of her sisters-in-law also battle MS.

"I say, ‘I may have MS, but MS doesn't have me,'" Karla said.

That's why the Posners are taking the battle to the Rose Bowl Sunday, April 19, when they'll join an estimated 5,000-6,000 other Southern Californians also determined to defeat MS by helping to raise funds to find a cure.

The "Walk MS" event is just one of many fundraisers organized around the country this spring by the nonprofit National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

MS is not contagious, and while there's no evidence MS is inherited, studies indicate that genetic factors could make some people more susceptible, according to the society.

What's contagious is the Posner family's refusal to let MS dominate their lives.

"I cannot let MS take over my life - I have a husband and four kids to take care of," Karla said.

Both mother and daughter credit much of their positivism to the unflagging support of their large immediate and extended family, starting with Karla's husband Dave, 47, a claims manager for a large commercial insurance agency in Woodland Hills, and their three other children, Jessica, 23, Robbie, 21, and Kimmee, 10.

"While Karla and Samantha are the ones with MS, this is a family illness, affecting each and every one of us," Dave said. "Our children have basically grown up with this disease."

"My family has been great -- they are very patient and very helpful," said Karla, who learned from her doctors she had MS 16 years ago, while pregnant with Samantha.

"I started to go numb but we just thought it was the baby," Karla said. "A year later I went numb and went to the doctor, but the feeling never came back. It was MS."

"When Karla was diagnosed, we were pretty scared," Dave said. "We all went through a lot, learning how to deal with it. However, early on we decided this was a condition we, as a family, would simply deal with."

"I was very depressed at first," Karla said. "I was put on an injectible medication and it made me feel like I had the flu for six months. I went off the medication (Betaseron) 10 years ago and had another child and eveyone was great. The pregnancy was great but I had to go back on the medication when Kimmee was two weeks old so I wouldn't get any more (numbness) episodes."

Eventually, Karla was able to control the disease's worst symptoms with her daily injections, but it's not the perfect solution.

"I still have some good days and some bad days, days when my hands are very numb and I can't get hold of a pen, or when my right leg gets very tingly like when it's falling alseep, or my left side goes numb," she said.

Posner is thankful her medical regimen allows her to carry on her life, which includes her work as an assistant program coordinator for a day community program for mentally handicapped adults. The SCV branch of All People's Access Community Services, a nonprofit organization funded by the state and county, runs the local program.

"We teach them money skills, shopping skills, mobility and writing skills, and keep them very busy," she said.

Along with multiple sclerosis, Samantha Posner shares her mother's indominable spirit and support of her family.

"I was diagnosed on June 4, 2006," said Samatha, a student at Saugus High School who is also finishing up studies at a cosmetology school. "I had always known my mom had the disease, but never really understood what it was until I was diagnosed. I started with numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. I was in denial for a very long time. For months, I didn't want anyone to know I had it, or know anything about it. I was convinced they would associate my name with the disease - that I would no longer be Sam, but ‘Sam with MS.'

"My family assured me they would help me throughout all of it, and they continue to show their support every day," she said. "Once I started my (Betaseron) treatments and began exercising more and trying to be healthier, my numbness went away. Now I have no known symptoms of the disease. It's amazing, and I am so thankful."

Samantha has become less self-conscious about peers knowing she has MS. "I started to tell more and more people about the disease, and then eased into telling them I had been diagnosed with it," she said. "I now talk openly about it, knowing that the more knowledge people receive about MS, the more they will be willing to help, and the greater chance for a cure."

The Posners have walked the 5K course in and around the Rose Bowl the past two years. For their third outing, they've signed up on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site, adopted a name for their family team, MS Fits, and Jessica has put together a team Web page.

Right now, the Posners are enlisting an army of supporters to visit the family's page, get information about Walk MS, sign up as MS Fits sponsors, make pledges and donations, and sign up to walk the walk at the Rose Bowl.

"It's so important for family and friends to participate at Walk MS because it shows knowledge of one's hardships, and appreciation for his or her strength," Samantha Posner said. "It demonstrates the willingness to understand more, and most importantly, the ability to move.

"People with multiple sclerosis know how important movement is," she said. "They long for the ability to feel, to run, to dance, to move. That is one feeling they will never take for granted. It's something those diagnosed with MS appreciate every day."

Samantha is excited about the upcoming Rose Bowl event. "Last year was wonderful, the year before was englightening," she said. "Both years my family attended were inspirational, motivational, and most of all, moving."

With the spirit of a cheerleader, she's inviting everyone she knows, whether they have MS or not. "Show support for your family, loved ones, or even a stranger who could use every ounce of motivation he/she can get. Walk MS!"

Leading up to the Rose Bowl event, the Posners have arranged a pair of fundraisers with two local restaurants.

!Una Mas! hosts one all day Thursday, April 2 at 26515 Golden Valley Road in Santa Clarita (near Rattler's in Centre Pointe).

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt at 26865 Sierra Highway in Newhall (corner of Via Princessa) has one set for Tuesday, April 14, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Mention "Walk MS" at !Una Mas! and present a flyer at Menchie's, and both restaurants will donate 15 percent of the cost of your food order to the MS Fits kitty.

It all adds up: Last year, "More than 200,000 walkers in nearly 600 locations covering all 50 states raised more than $61 million" for the war on MS, according to Marni Deckter, National Multiple Sclerosis Society spokeswoman.

"(Researchers) are working so hard to find a cure," Karla said. "I don't want my daughter to have to go through her adult life hoping she will have a good day!"

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