An inspiration, an adventure
By Traci Chapman
It was the kind of news that could bring anyone down, but for Kenny Reyes being told he had Multiple Sclerosis became just one more challenge.
It’s the way he’s lived his whole life, say his friends, co-workers and family – and in the process, he’s helping a lot of people who share a disease that can cripple the soul as much as it can the body.
Kenny Reyes has what many people would call a “dream” life – married to Allison for more than 12 years, the couple has two daughters, Haylee and Sydney. Kenny is a Nichols Hills firefighter and has been for 13 years; Allison is a teacher at Mustang Trails Elementary. The 36-year-old coaches both of his daughters’ soccer teams, plays soccer himself and is active in the family’s church, The Bridge in Mustang.
In July 2011, a lot of things changed, but yet, the changes were not as far-reaching as one might expect, Kenny said. It was on July 4 of that year he noticed some numbness in his legs. A trip to the doctor first garnered a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, but with the numbness spreading to the rest of his body, Kenny was referred to a neurologist. It was the beginning of a long series of tests and trials.
“In July and August of that year I had four MRIs and they found a legion on my spinal cord,” Kenny said. “It was on Sept. 1 I got the results – I learned a bunch of new words at that time.”
Those words were Multiple Sclerosis and all of the long words associated with it, the names of medications and treatments designed to keep him healthy. An unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system, MS interrupts the flow of information with the brain and between the brain and the body. Symptoms can range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis.
For Kenny, the symptoms abated with a regimen of daily injections and frequent tests to monitor his condition. It was news to a man in his mid-30s that could cause depression, desperation – what it brought out in Kenny Reyes was determination, Allison said.
“He’s always been upbeat, a happy person, and this hasn’t changed that,” Allison said. “He’s been a rock, but more than that, he’s inspired people.”
It was early on Kenny received some inspiration of his own – from people involved in Walk MS, an annual event held across the country aimed at increasing awareness about Multiple Sclerosis and raising funds for research. In the metro area, the walk was historically held at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
For two years, Kenny and his family traveled to the zoo to be part of the MS Walk. It was a time to meet others battling MS, lend and gain support and help others understand what the disease was all about. Kenny said it was an eye-opening experience.
“These people, they are so brave and some of them are facing so much,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed and fortunate because I’ve had no reoccurrences since 2011, but not everyone has been that lucky.”
Luck wasn’t really the determining factor in Kenny’s success so far, his family said. His commitment to staying physically active, positive attitude and the fact he went to the doctor quickly and got a fast diagnosis were all factors working in his favor, they said.
“We were so blessed because I had great doctors who didn’t give up and followed through until they figured out what it was,” Kenny said.
Through their journey, the walk was an annual reminder of those blessings, Kenny said. This year, Kenny and Allison moved from participants to organizers, when the walk needed a new home. Suggesting Mustang, the couple was part of the team that visited the city and discovered it would be a “perfect” place for the event, set for May 3.
“We’ve had the largest team the last two years, but it’s especially exciting for the walk to be held here, in Mustang,” he said.
Check-in will begin at 9 a.m., with the walk starting at 10 a.m. May 3. There will be two routes, Kenny said – one 0.6 miles and the other 1.3 miles, both winding through the park. Walkers must be pre-registered to participate.
“Our number of walkers are a bit down from last year right now, but we’ve heard donations are slightly up,” Kenny said. “I think some of that is to be expected with a change of venue, but we’re excited about the donations.”
According to Kenny’s Walk MS page, his team has raised more than $1,400 this year, and he hopes to go much higher. He also hopes to let people know about the disease and how much their contribution can help through the walk, he said.
“I don’t see it as a handicap or anything bad like that – I see it as an adventure,” Kenny said. “God’s put me in this for a reason, and I intend to make the most of it and do the most I can do.”
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