National multiple sclerosis (MS) month raises awareness and shows support for the more than 2.3 million people battling this chronic disease. On the forefront of raising awareness is Channing Barker. First diagnosed with MS at the age of 16, Channing is in known throughout the Northwest Arkansas community for educating, comforting an inspiring those with MS and rallying support for their cause. We sat down with Channing to talk about her journey with MS, and why she has made it her life platform to help others.
“I have a story, and my story is one of grace and vulnerability, because others have given me grace in times when I was very vulnerable. Times when my body was giving up on me, times when I wasn't able to walk, and that, in turn, has allowed me to find grace through this process. I also have found how being vulnerable allows you to open up to others, and it allows others to open up to you,” Channing shared.
While Channing has moments when she wishes this wasn’t the path she has had to live, she truly has embraced the road she is on. She said, “So, I think that there are two questions you should ask yourself every morning. Who are you and why are you here? And, I feel like it is my mission to advocate for those with any kind of disability. Everyone has something, everyone has a story, everyone has the thing they're dealing with. It doesn't have to be MS or a diagnosis. It can be a divorce, depression, a car wreck, recovering from an addiction, but everybody has their thing, and this is just my thing. And so, I feel really called to stand up for those who maybe physically can't stand up for themselves, because there's been so many times where I haven't been able to drive, I haven't been able to work, or frankly live the life I was meant to live here or the life I thought I was supposed to live here. I don't see it as a burden, because I've been really blessed in the sense of research and medical advances.”
Channing hopes that a cure is on the near horizon and has already seen many advances since her diagnosis in 2006. “When I was first diagnosed, there were about five medications that I was given to choose from. All were injections or very risky infusions, and when you're 16, the last thing you want to do is go into a hospital and have an infusion every couple of weeks. So, I chose a series of shots every night for ten years. Fast forward to now – advances in medicine have made it where I'm able to have infusions only twice a year. So, I don't have to take a shot every night and I don't have to take a handful of pills. I have seen the progression of how close we are to a cure, and that’s exciting.”
One of the biggest blessings to Channing has been the support of friends, family and the Northwest Arkansas community. “They have all been rays of hope for me,” she said. It’s that message of hope Channing wants to shine on others. “If somebody were to be diagnosed today, I would say, you've got this, that's what everyone should know when they wake up in the morning, no matter if they're living through a diagnosis or just a really rough time. You've got this! You're going to come out on the other side and there's light. There's so much light, and goodness, and hope. We all go through rough patches, but the majority of life is light and brightness, and there's just a few dark spots every now and then. It seems sometimes like, when you're in that hole, that you're never going to get out, when in reality, the light is just so, so close and you have to be through that darkness to appreciate that goodness.”
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis, is a long-lasting disease that can affect your brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves in your eyes.... MS happens when your immune system attacks a fatty material called myelin, which wraps around your nerve fibers to protect them.