By Cindy Jackson
December 14, 2020
The pink ribbon has become synonymous with breast cancer, red ribbons help to raise awareness about heart health and purple has become a symbol of the fight against pancreatic cancer. These ribbons are an effective and cost-efficient means of spreading awareness and sending a message of solidarity — without having to say a word.
Orange is the color of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis is a disease for which there is no cure – and no identifiable cause. MS is a debilitating disease of the central nervous system. It effects the brain, the spinal cord and the optic nerves. It can cause problems with balance, vision, muscle control, and other basic body functions. While there is no known cause and no known cure, there is hope and support.
Meet Jim Montgomery. Jim has MS. He’s a fighter and believes there is strength and comfort in connecting. In fact, to that end, Jim and his wife Carol are MS Advocates for the North Florida Chapter of the National MS Society.
Jim is a former minor league baseball player, drafted right out of high school by the Chicago Cubs. He is also a super successful businessman having been with a leading building supply company for over 25 years. As a testament to that, the walls of his home office in Yulee are decorated with countless plaques and certificates which speak to his great salesmanship, connections with customers and overall contributions to the company’s success and profitability.
About 15 years ago, however, Jim started to experience problems with balance, a tingling in his hands and major fatigue. That was when he was just 45.
The quest for a proper diagnosis was not easy – and not inexpensive. One doctor ran a multitude of blood tests, ear tests and gave Montgomery a CAT scan (a computed axial tomography), only to rule out that he did not have vertigo or an inner ear infection.
From there he went to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor only to be told that he was dehydrated and should go home and drink a lot of Gatorade.
In the weeks and weeks that followed, Jim’s symptoms did not subside.
And took still more time until Jim was finally able to secure an appointment with a neurologist. That appointment was followed by still more tests including, but not limited to, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), blood work and a spinal tap.
That neurologist came to the conclusion that he had Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. For the uninitiated, there are three main types of MS.
Approximately 85% of individuals diagnosed with MS have the type that Jim has. But there are two other “varieties” known as Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
As often explained, each person with multiple sclerosis lives with a different illness and while nerve damage is always a part of the disease, the pattern is unique for everyone. The disease is truly unpredictable.
At one stage of his illness, Jim developed optic neuritis which happens when the MS attacks the optic nerve. The result – he went blind for seven days. Only after a prolonged series of steroid injections was he able to regain his sight.
Since then, Jim has been on an oral medication and so far, so good.
But that too was not without its challenges. He had to wait for the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) to approve the drug yet that approval was delayed — not once, but twice.
While Jim can no longer work (after 25 years of dedicated service) because of the debilitating nature of this disease, his home office remains a testament to his spirit, ability and huber effectiveness at any and everything he sets his mind to.
In fact, there is not a speck of available wall space in his home office because of the many plaques, certificates of appreciation and awards for record-breaking sales and now, record-breaking activities and accomplishments in his fight against MS.
In April of 2019, they walked the MS Walk in Jacksonville, raising $150,000 and have tirelessly walked the halls of Congress and most recently lobbied in Tallahassee, Florida.
Escalating drug prices, access to medicine, exorbitant co-pays, the cost of physical therapy and limitations as to what insurance policies cover are just a few of the many, many issues anyone facing MS must face and fight. Not to mention the work needed to make the case that money be allocated for MS research so that someday, somehow a cure may be found.
Jim and Carol Montgomery face and fight the disease that is MS every single day of the week. The two of them possess an incredible determination and dedication. Shortly after they were married in 2014, Jim started a support which grew from just a few members to over 50 and where ever they go, that is one of the first things Jim does and he has done it here in Nassau County.
He started one on Amelia Island in May 2018 at the Fernandina Beach Library and it became a huge source of support with as many as 20 individuals at a meeting. As a result of COVID-19, however, those meetings are now held via Zoom – on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. Said Jim, “people who have MS especially during the pandemic and holidays need support and someone to talk to. It helps to know there is a support group out there.”
The meetings led by Jim have featured an “Ask the Doctor” night and guest speakers who talk to the virtues of physical therapy and yoga. In addition, there is, of course, a lot of time for sharing stories and asking questions.
During a recent interview at their home in Yulee, Carol Montgomery spoke so very glowingly about her husband and shared a written tribute in which she said, “He is always positive even on a tough MS day and puts everything in perspective. I value his perseverance, his integrity and his determination. He has told me time and time again, that “he was chosen to beat MS.”
If anyone can, it’s Jim and Carol Montgomery.
For more information, Jim and Carol can be reached at 954-647-5193 and then there is always the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at https://www.nationalmssociety.org available 24/7.