Jillian Kucik wants to change the way people think about multiple sclerosis.
When the Valparaiso woman was growing up, the few people she knew with the disease were in wheelchairs.
Thanks to advances in treatment, Kucik, who was diagnosed with MS in 2012, is raising 3-year-old twins and working part time as a Realtor.
"Young people, when they get diagnosed, get depressed and scared," the 33-year-old said. "But there's so much support out there. It's not over. There's so much out there you can do to better your life. My next step is changing my diet. But I really like pizza."
She hopes to support future developments in multiple sclerosis care by raising money for the National MS Society. She is leading a team of 75 people at Walk MS: Northwest this Sunday in Highland. It already has raised more than $2,750 for this year's event.
After her diagnosis, Kucik knew she wanted to get involved in improving the lives of people with her condition. She signed up for the MS walk that year ("I had to quickly create the name: Team Jillian. That's why it's not that original or that fun.") Over the past five years, her team has raised $25,000.
Her symptoms consist of numbness on her left side and sometimes not being able to lift her left leg. When she was pregnant, she said, she didn't feel any effects of MS. She wonders if a potential treatment lies in the hormones women produce during pregnancy.
"I hope they can find a cure, something that can slow the progression more, stop it," she said. "Hopefully there's something in my lifetime. For people who have problems walking, I hope they can find a way to fix what's already been damaged. I feel like there will be something eventually."
With her help, there just might be.