Emily Munoz spends much of her time doing fundraising events and spreading awareness about multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that hasn’t broken her spirit and positivity since she was diagnosed in 2006.
Munoz, 32, of Ozone Park, will be preparing to join her “Just E’s-Support team” in the seventh New York Multiple Sclerosis Walk at South Street Seaport on Sunday, April 28.
According to Munoz, when she was diagnosed with MS at the age of 26, she didn’t understand what the condition was or why it happened to her.
“I felt confused. As a young lady I wasn’t really sure what MS was until my neurologist told me that talk show host Montel Williams had it as well,” said Munoz. “But after a while I had a better outlook on things, and had a positive attitude about it. I wasn’t going to let it stop me from doing anything I’ve been already doing.”
The chronic illness, which affects the central nervous system, caused Munoz to have spasms and pain attacks every three months, until one day she experienced numbness on the entire right side of her body. Scared and nervous about her condition, she was afraid to be in public because of the way she was feeling.
“I’ve dealt with different spasms where it tightens up my muscles; they’re painful,” she said. “Sometimes they’re a lot stronger than others, but I usually get it in my legs, feet, arms and neck.”
Unable to afford the $1,600 cost of her medication when she was laid off from work in 2010, Munoz reached out to a representative from the New York Southern Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The group was able to assist and supply her with Avonex, a weekly injection that is mailed three months worth at a time.
She said the society also constantly kept her informed about events and was an inspiration to do so much more.
The MS Society is committed to helping tens of thousands of people living with MS in New York City and five lower upstate counties by providing comprehensive support services and educational programs, according to the Southern New York Chapter’s website.
Daphne Mack, spokeswoman for the chapter, said the April 28 walk is looked at as a rallying point for people living with MS, their loved ones and friends.
“It is an opportunity to get together to celebrate a milestone in finding treatment, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness and funding,” said Mack.
Munoz’s “Just E’s-Support team” comprises 85 to 100 people who come out to walk with her each year. So far they have managed to raise over $65,000, and in 2008 created support teams of friends and family members across the state.
“My team is my baby and means everything to me. Some people don’t understand how much it means to me, but when they see it they’re amazed,” said Munoz. “Every year I’m excited and I cry about it, I love being a part of it. We talk and get together, and it makes me proud that so many people I know have been inspired.
According to Mack, proceeds from the MS walk will go straight to the MS Society Southern New York Chapter to support programs and critical research that is headed by the National MS Society.
The walk will provide a “festival atmosphere with tents for the children to play in and music,” Mack said, adding that a DJ will be on hand, and there will be opportunities to win prizes.
The group expects 6,000 to 8,000 participants.
“MS is something to not be ashamed of. It’s important for everyone who has it to learn to accept it and be positive,” said Munoz. “There’s nothing wrong with having it, you’re just as normal as the next person.”