GREENVILLE — Few people know the problems associated with multiple sclerosis better than Kelly Finger McNeela.
The former Belding High School student was first diagnosed with MS when she was only 15, yet graduated after being voted homecoming queen, then went on to earn her degree from Michigan State University.
Her inspirational story was chronicled recently in a book by local author Doreen Rickert Rademacher. The project, which spanned several years, tells the tale of McNeela’s diagnosis and physical decline, as well as the traumatic effects the disease had on her personal life.
Shortly after the two women began collaborating on the book, McNeela’s husband announced he could no longer handle looking after his disabled wife. Against her wishes, he checked his wife into a nursing home.
“One morning he just took her there,” Rademacher said. “The tragedy was, he didn’t warn her ahead of time.”
The book, “I Can and I Did! The Kelly Finger McNeela Story,” focuses largely on McNeela’s climb back to self-sufficiency and dignity.
On Thursday evening, Rademacher will share McNeela’s story with the MS Support Group at Spectrum Health United Lifestyles in Greenville.
According to Kristine Merlington, the nurse who heads up the group and is an MS sufferer herself, the group was founded in March 2011.
“After my diagnosis I looked into the numbers of people living with MS and thought we needed some kind of group for this county,” Merlington said. “I am affiliated with the National MS Society of Michigan as a self-help group leader.”
The meetings have typically been rather sparsely attended, Merlington admit; typically, only about four people show up. She is hoping Rademacher’s appearance will boost that number.
Those who do attend have regularly commented on how much they get from the meetings.
“I have had a couple of my regular people say how much they enjoyed the company and information given at the meetings that it has helped them with their own personal problems,” Merlington said.
In addition to the emotional support group members get from sharing their problems and concerns, the meetings also offer an educational component. Merlington has conducted extensive research into the disease, which she presents along with information provided by the National MS Society.
“We also talk about what is happening with each person,” Merlington said. “I have asked persons in the past to let me know what kind of information they would like to learn and I try to obtain it.”
Some of the topics covered at the meetings include MS symptoms, therapies and any other information someone with MS — or a support person — might need to know to live a full life with the disease.
The group meets at 6 p.m. the fourth Thursday of each month at Spectrum Health United Lifestyles building, 407 S. Nelson in Greenville.