Mary Knosby did the only thing she could think of when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
She got down to work, spreading awareness of the neurological disease in hopes of a cure.
When she was diagnosed in April 2006, Knosby, 34, had already been donating $25 a year to a co-worker who rode in the former MS 150 Breakaway to the Beach bicycle ride from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach.
Diagnosed a week before another annual MS fundraiser, the MS Walk in Charlotte, Knosby rallied a few friends to join her and husband Cullen on a walking team they called “Cure Ahead.” They had 32 walkers on their team last year and 55 this year. The team raised $4,000 this year for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and its funding of research toward a cure.
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On Sept. 27-28, Mary Knosby will be in charge of the finish line in Greenville, S.C., for Bike MS, as the annual 150-mile cycling fundraiser is now called. The ride this year will cross upstate South Carolina. Cullen Knosby will lead a team of up to 10 cyclists, his third year riding in the event; last year, his team of six riders raised $10,000.
The Knosbys estimate they've raised $30,000 for the society from family and friends since Mary's diagnosis.
“The MS Society is a wonderful, supportive organization for people with MS,” Knosby said. “I felt welcome instantly, and it was very easy to get involved.”
She so quickly became an integral helper with the society's Charlotte-based Mid-Atlantic chapter that she was named its 2006 Rookie Volunteer of the Year.
“I wish I could volunteer full-time, but I have to work,” Knosby told me at the couple's home in the McGinnis Village community off Eastfield Road. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native is an engineer with Black & Veatch, an environmental consulting firm in Charlotte.
She's also a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan who met her future husband, a St. Louis Rams fan, while watching football with friends at the University City Midtown Sundries.
The couple married on Aug. 6, 2005, and live now with their dog Sadie, 9, an Australian shepherd-lab mix who accompanies them on the annual MS Walk.
Doctors determined Mary Knosby had MS after diagnosing her with optic neuritis after she temporarily lost sight in her right eye. She also has occasional numbness and tingling in her body, other telltale signs of MS. She has the “relapsing-remitting” form of the disease, with symptoms appearing intermittently.
She's on one of three injectable medications that have proven to keep the disease in check over time. The cause of the disease is unknown.
Cullen Knosby, who turns 34 on Oct. 29, said he's made a commitment to ride in Bike MS every year until there's a cure. Cullen works for Charlotte-based Coast International Services, a machinery moving company for manufacturers.
“I don't think I could have been this positive without Cullen's support,” Mary Knosby said. She's always at MS fundraisers, as a participant or a volunteer, with clappers and whistles and signs to encourage walkers and riders.
When Cullen nears the Bike MS finish line this month, his biggest fan will be there to cheer him across.