When John Linn was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis three years ago, it was devastating news for the then 30-year-old Brainerd man, who had always been extremely active in sports and outdoor activities, along with his career as a commercial photographer.
MS meant no more wakeboarding, rock climbing, snowmobiling, skiing, snowboarding or kayaking, or so Linn thought.
But Linn, now 33, has learned that life can go on after being diagnosed with a chronic disease like MS. He and his family have worked hard to raise funds for MS research and programs to hopefully someday find a cure for the disease. Another goal the 1992 Brainerd High School graduate has is to give a sense of hope to people newly diagnosed with MS. He has spoken at MS conferences and programs about his personal experience, along with speaking one-on-one to people in the Brainerd lakes area who have been newly diagnosed.
John Linn discussed what it was like for him to be diagnosed three years ago with multiple sclerosis as his wife, Carna, and 2-year-old son, Parker, sat beside him in their Brainerd home. Linn, 33, an avid snowmobiler and outdoor enthusiast, is an ambassador for the 28th annual National MS Society, Minnesota Chapter's MS Sno Rally, a three-day snowmobile tour to fight MS Feb. 22-25 in Tower. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I thought it was the end of the world," Linn said of his MS diagnosis. "All of a sudden there's a name to it. You're diagnosed with a disease which has no cure."
Linn is an ambassador for the 28th annual MS Sno Rally Snowmobile Tour, a three-day fundraising ride planned for Feb. 22-25 in Tower. This will be his third year attending the rally. He and his wife, Carna, who are both avid sledders, plan to ride in the tour again this year while Linn's parents, Irene and Mike Linn of Nisswa, will attend and likely volunteer, along with helping to baby-sit their 2-year-old grandson, Parker. The event raises funds for the National MS Society, Minnesota Chapter. The chapter anticipates that the nearly 100 participants will raise more than $130,000 to fight multiple sclerosis during the Sno Rally next month.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, chronic disease of the central nervous system in which inflammation and breakdown in the protective insulation surrounding the nerve fibers of the central nervous system occurs.
MS symptoms are highly individual and vary in both severity and duration. MS can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, and even paralysis and blindness. These problems might be permanent or sporadic. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are giving hope to people affected by the disease.
There are more than 400,000 Americans living with MS and every week about 200 people are diagnosed with the disease.
For more information about MS or the 28th annual MS Sno Rally Snowmobile Tour on Feb. 22-25 in Tower, visit the National MS Society, Minnesota Chapter, Web site at www.mssociety.org.
Deadline for registering for the MS Sno Rally is Feb. 18. Registration fee is $75 and a minimum pledge of $700 in donations is required.
Linn first suffered MS symptoms in 1998 when he experienced some numbness on his face, which went away with a steroid treatment. Linn was officially diagnosed with MS in February of 2004 after he began experiencing numbness in his foot, which began to extend up into his chest and down his other leg. It was a scary time for Linn and he was stunned to learn he had MS. He and his wife, Carna, had already planned a downhill skiing trip and they decided to go anyway since he thought it would be the last time he'd ever be able to go skiing. He began to immerse himself in researching MS on the Internet and so did his family.
"You become an expert real fast," said his mom, Irene. "I didn't know what MS stood for before his diagnosis."
John Linn, a Brainerd photographer, has not let multiple sclerosis get in the way of his active lifestyle. Linn, along with his wife, Carna, will ride their snowmobiles in the 28th annual MS Sno Rally, a three-day snowmobile tour Feb. 22-25 in Tower to raise funds to fight MS. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Linn read about the MS Sno Rally on the MS Society Web site, which happened to take place the weekend after he was diagnosed. He and his wife decided to go since an MS specialist was planning to speak there. The couple began to meet others affected by MS and made some friends. They decided to become official Sno Rally participants the next year.
Linn has been fortunate. He gives himself daily injections to stave off any relapses of MS symptoms. So far he's felt healthy, has been symptom-free for the past three years and is able to participate in the many activities he has been active in his entire life. He earned a second place in a local wakeboarding competition last summer, despite being one of the oldest participants there.
Linn is a photographer and partner at Adventure Creative Group, an advertising firm based in Brainerd.
The Linn family, including his parents, host a "River Cruise for a Cure" each fall on the Mississippi Belle on Rice Lake in Brainerd. The riverboat was built by John Linn's late grandfather, Harold Rademacher, and is now operated by Linn's cousin and his wife, Nick and Gabrielle Buffetta, who donate the boat for the event. Proceeds from the river cruise, which includes dinner and a silent auction, go toward the Sno Rally. The Linns have to raise at least $700 in minimum donations to participate in the Sno Rally but they strive to raise as much as they can because they believe in the cause. Typically they've raised about $6,000 each year for the MS Society from their "River Cruise for a Cure," which usually hosts about 80 guests.
Linn hopes that other snowmobilers in the Brainerd lakes area will become involved in the MS Sno Rally, a fun weekend of events that includes scenic rides between lakes and rivers on well-groomed trails in the Tower/Babbitt/Ely area of northern Minnesota.
"When I tell someone I have MS, it's amazing how many times they know someone with MS," said Linn. "I wish they'd find the cure."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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