It's been 16 years since Katie Lesznar was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Nine years ago, she started using a wheelchair to get around.
Today, Lesznar's condition has deteriorated to such an extent that she describes herself as "almost pretty much helpless."
Lesznar, 52, of Hagerstown, took time to reflect on her journey Saturday morning at the Maryland Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Walk MS at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg.
Around 20 friends and family members joined "Team Katie" team to help raise awareness about multiple sclerosis and funds to research the disease.
Nearly 500 people participated in the event, raising roughly $40,000.
Sheltered under a tarp from the cold pouring rain, Lesznar said she feels like she has become "somewhat of a burden" on her family. The mother of three said that her husband does the cooking, cleaning, and laundry besides working full time.
But despite the physical and emotional challenges, Lesznar remains upbeat. In some ways, she said having MS has made her life better. For one, it has taught her to slow down and make the most of her relationships.
"I've never had as many friends in my whole life as I have now," Lesznar said. "This forced me to slow down and to be more available for my daughter. Not so much physically, but emotionally. If I'd been physically fit, I would still be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I've learned so much I can't even tell you."
Jessica McDaniels, Western Maryland community development coordinator with the Maryland Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said more than 700 people registered ahead of time for the event. McDaniels said she believed a few hundred chose not to attend because of the unfavorable weather.
"It's slowed things down a bit, but definitely not too much," McDaniels said. "The only thing that stops the walk is thunder or lightning. Thank goodness electrical storms are not around."
Johni McGoldrick, 36, of Falling Waters, W.Va., and about 20 friends and family members withstood the winds and slogged through puddles at the walk. After she began experiencing gait and spasm issues, along with numbness in her legs, McGoldrick was diagnosed with MS six years ago. She has participated in each of the annual battlefield walks since.
"People ask me why I'd come out here in this rain and wind to do this. I tell them, 'I walk because I can,'" McGoldrick said. "Someday I might not be able to. Now, I can put one foot in front of the other, so I'm gonna do it as long as I can."