HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The life of a lawmaker is busy, and at times stressful. Add multiple sclerosis to the mix, and you have the life of Delegate Jeion Ward of Hampton.
Delegate Ward represents the newly redrawn 87th District. She was elected to the House of Delegates in 2003.
“You can really be a voice for people who really don’t have a voice, and that’s exciting to me. When the community needs something or wants something or all the people are asking for something that I believe in, then that’s what gives me fulfillment. You hear a lot of people talking about increasing the minimum wage, increasing the minimum wage, and that was the hardest bill I will ever carry, but we did pass it, and Virginia is ahead of everybody else right now,” said Delegate Ward.
Many of her days are non-stop, morning to night.
“There was a time when I had two committee meetings at the same time. One was in this building, this General Assembly building, and one was over in the Capitol, and people would always know that I was running from one building to the other. I always had on tennis shoes.”
What no one knew? Delegate Ward did it all with multiple sclerosis.
“Mine started about 1995. My whole left side of my body was numb, every bit. It stayed like that, I guess, for about a month, and then I started feeling some relief, but it’s always something.”
Back in ’95, there were no treatments for MS.
“They had something called Betaseron, but it was only by lottery, and I was not one to receive it.”
Over the years, Delegate Ward has fought a number of MS symptoms.
“I have lost vision during the early stages, complete vision, for about two weeks. I was scared to death. It just looked like I was in a dark, smoky room.”
Now, she deals with exhaustion and mobility issues.
“The legs are always sore. My legs are sore. They’re always tired. They ache, but, again, I’ve got things to do, you know? What am I going to do? I’m not going to sit down all day long.”
Several years after she took office, this lawmaker took her positive attitude to the House floor where, on MS Awareness day, she told her colleagues she has Multiple Sclerosis.
“I was hesitant to stand up and do it, but when I sat down, it was so freeing. It was like saying, ‘This is who I am. This is what I deal with, but I am not the only person.'”
Over the years, the MS community has gone from zero treatments to more than 20 thanks to big fundraising events.
“We’ve got an MS walk coming up soon, and so I want people to be aware, to do what they can do, walk with us. Make contributions to us, because one day we’re going to cure this little thing. We’re going to get rid of it.”
A large group makes up Delegate Ward’s team at Walk MS. Her team’s name is “Walking forWard.”
Delegate Ward says Walk MS is inspirational.
“It’s a three-mile walk, and I can’t do the three miles anymore, but I promised my people, all of my warriors, I’m going to walk as far as I can and when I have to stop, I’m going to wait for you, and we’re going to cross the finish line together.”
She refuses to sit still when a cure is so close, and she wants you to join her. In the meantime, she has a message for all of those living with MS.
“Get up. Just get up. It doesn’t matter how fast you walk, how slow you walk, just get up.”
Our local Walk MS events are this weekend. Delegate Ward will be at the Peninsula Walk in Newport News Saturday morning at Newport News Park. The site opens at 9 a.m., and the walk starts at 10 a.m.
The Walk on the Southside is in Virginia Beach Sunday afternoon at the ODU Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, Lot 3. The site opens at 12 p.m., and the walk starts at 1 p.m.
The WAVY Warriors will walk at the Virginia Beach event. It is not too late to join our team or to donate to the cause.