Brittani Rusnak fights an uphill battle, everyday.
It’s a battle of immense pain—not one that a captain of the high school varsity soccer team and a standout swimmer typically has to fight—but after 7 years of fighting, she’s learned how to manage.
In December, 2010, doctors diagnosed Rusnak with transverse myelitis, a rare neuro-immune disease, which causes inflammation of the spinal column. This type of disease, and its variations, affects individuals of all ages, and causes symptoms that range from nerve pain and weakness to lost vision and paralysis.
On Saturday, March 24, 2018, Rusnak will share her story at the inaugural Arizona Walk-Run-N-Roll at Steele Indian School Park. The event aims to raise money for more research into transverse myelitis (TM).
“These illnesses are so rare and unknown,” Rusnak, a high school senior at Red Mountain High School, said. “When an event like this happens, it allows people to get a better understanding of what we are dealing with. I think it will show everyone within the TM community the support there is for us, and that is really amazing.”
Kate Krietor, who suffers from a similar disease and is one of the five people who thought of bringing a Walk-Run-N-Roll to Phoenix, said she expects to see over 100 attendees. She also set a fundraising goal of $10,000.
“We’re planning to have a lot of fun and to make some connections in this small, spread out community,” Krietor said. “We have folks coming from Tucson, Flagstaff, Lake Havasu, all around the state.”
Rusnak will be one of about a dozen speakers at the event. Gail Buch of the Transverse Myelitis Association said stories like Rusnak’s set change in motion.
“Brittani is such a dynamic individual,” Buch, who also suffers from TM, said. “She exudes so much energy. Having someone like her is key to raising awareness.” According the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the cause of TM, in most cases, is unknown. And it takes a thorough neurological examination to diagnose someone.
Because TM is so rare, many individuals suffering with the disease do so alone, with no one they can relate with.
During her battle, Rusnak discovered the importance of talking to people about what she was going through. She said she wants to spread that feeling of support with others on Saturday.
“While I have learned to manage my pain over the years, there are still difficult days” she said. “What I have learned to do is to always communicate how I am feeling with my teachers, coaches and friends so that they understand what I am going through that day. I think it is always important for someone with TM to remember that for every bad day there is a good day, and that is how I try to live with TM, knowing that there is a better day that follows.”
If you go
Event: Arizona Walk-Run-N-Roll
When: Saturday, March 24. On-site registration begins at 9 am. followed by the walk at at 10 a.m.
Where: Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85012
Images courtesy of Walk-Run-N-Roll