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Boonsboro woman named honorary chairwoman of Walk MS

April 21, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Jennifer Poffenberger of Boonsboro was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. She said she has been on drug therapy since her diagnosis, and goes each year for a checkup at University of Maryland Medical Center.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO — On the surface, Jennifer Poffenberger's life seems fairly normal.

She has been married for 22 years, is the mother of two teenage boys and has a full-time job.

Like other parents, she's involved in her children's activities and finds time to volunteer with the Boy Scouts, the Athletic Boosters and PTA.

Active in her church, she sings in the choir and serves on a committee.

And if that's not enough to keep her busy, she's a Longaberger basket consultant.

A lifelong resident of Boonsboro, she is close to her parents, her sisters - who she calls her best friends - and her nieces and nephews.

Her life might seem picture perfect - except for the presence of a silent disease.

Poffenberger, 44, has multiple sclerosis.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disorder that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms can be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision.

It's been 13 years since Poffenberger was told she had MS, but she still recalls vividly the symptoms that led to that diagnosis.

"I remember getting out of bed on Good Friday in March of 2000 and having numbness and tingling from my waist down," she said.

Those symptoms spread to her hands, feet and, eventually, all over.

"I went through several different tests," Poffenberger said, "with everything coming back negative. But my brother-in-law, who is a dairy veterinarian and has an aunt with MS, suggested I go to a neurologist and so I did. I had an MRI and there were lesions on the brain. Then, I had a spinal tap and it confirmed the diagnosis."

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where she went for a second opinion, supported the test results. She had MS.

Poffenberger said being told she had multiple sclerosis was something she never expected.

"However, when I got the final diagnosis, I just said, 'What do I need to do?' I wanted to be proactive and get started with a medication that could slow down the disease," she said. "At the time, my boys were young and my main concern was whether I would be able to keep up with them and their activities."

Fortunately, she said, her MS was diagnosed early so she hasn't had the problems that some people do who are fighting the disorder.

"In my case, I thank God that I have been able to continue with my children's activities and that I have, up to this point, been able to live a normal life," she said. "I've been very fortunate to have been able to keep my MS under control with medication."

Poffenberger said she has been on the drug Copaxone since her diagnosis.

"I give myself this injection every day," she said.

She also goes to the University of Maryland Medical Center once a year for a checkup.

Other than that, her life is pretty normal, she noted.

"I work full time at Lanco-Pennland in Hagerstown. I am very involved in my kids' activities and in the community," she said.  "I am the current president of the Boonsboro Athletic Boosters, secretary of the Boonsboro Middle School PTA and serve on Troop 20 Boy Scout Committee."

Poffenberger said her church family has always been an important part of her life. She is a member of the Contemporary Choir at Trinity Lutheran Church in Boonsboro, leads a small children's choir and serves on the Christian Education and Outreach Committee.

And there are no signs of slowing down.

Poffenberger recently was named the honorary chairwoman of the upcoming Walk MS at Antietam National Battlefield.

The fundraising event, sponsored by the National MS Society-Maryland Chapter, will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Antietam National Battlefield.

"I am very honored to have been chosen," Poffenberger said.

The Boonsboro resident will be among the walkers following an approximately 3-mile route, just as she has been over the past 12 years. Her team is JP's Crew, which will be made up of family and friends.

"My parents became very involved in the walk after my diagnosis," she said, "and have chaired the Hagerstown Walk for several years."

Money raised from the walk will be used to support life-changing programs and services for the more than 6,700 people in Maryland living with MS. The walk, held in 10 communities across the state, is the chapter's largest fundraising campaign.

Poffenberger said she is thankful, while dealing with MS, for the full support of her family, including her husband Mark, her sons Zachary, who will be 18 in June and will graduate from Boonsboro High School, and Zane, 14, an eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School.

"My sisters, parents and Mark's family have always been there when we need them," she added. "I'm also surrounded by great friends."

Poffenberger encourages anyone who is having any type of health problems to be their own advocate.

"You know your body better than anyone else," she said. "Stand up for how you feel and be persistent if things don't seem right. I remember in the beginning feeling like maybe my symptoms were not taken seriously and I knew something was not right. The more proactive you are, hopefully, you will be able to slow down the progression of the disease."



If  you go ...

What: Walk MS Hagerstown, an annual fundraising event supporting multiple sclerosis programs and research. The route is about 3 miles.

When: Saturday, April 27. Registration opens at 9 a.m. The walk begins at 10 a.m.

Where:  Antietam National Battlefield, Md. 65, Sharpsburg. Start at Philadelphia Brigade Monument.

Contact: For more information and to register go to www.walkmsmaryland.org



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