Decker was doing her job training at Sheppard
Air Force Base, Texas, when she first began having symptoms
of MS. She experienced a bad dizzy spell just before lunch
and had to be rushed by ambulance to the base hospital.
I was feeling kind of lightheaded and thought it was because
I didn’t eat breakfast,” said Decker. “I had
to sit, because I felt like I was going to pass out.”
Two months later, Decker said, her symptoms had not gone away,
and she went to see a neurologist about to eventually undergo
MRI testing and a spinal tap.
After testing and going through my medical history, they determined
that I had MS,” said Decker.
She was an airman first class in the U.S. Air Force, and
was medically retired after diagnosis, in July 1999.
I was devastated because I knew that I had to give up my career,” she
said. “I thought that my life was over. My family was in
Hawai‘i, so they couldn’t help me because I was so
In September, Decker returned to the Big Island where her
family lived. She had to wait for her medical insurance
before resuming treatment. She got her old job back as
a dishwasher at Waikoloa Village Market and worked until
to O‘ahu to attend school at HPU.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the nervous
system, including vision, speech, muscle coordination,
and other bodily
functions, according to Richard Lechtenberg, M.D., in his
Multiple Sclerosis Fact Book.
MS affects people of most races and all social backgrounds.
The disease usually appears during young adulthood. There
is no known
cure for it, and since its cause is unknown, a cure is
unlikely any time soon. Ways to halt or reverse the disease
sought through trial and error, according to Lechtenberg.
Decker’s main challenge is managing the pain that comes
from MS. She battles not only the unpredictability of the symptoms
of relapsing-remitting MS, which is the type Decker has, but
also figure out ways to manage it to minimize its effect on her
I have dizzy spells, headaches, sharp electric shock-like pain,
weakness in my legs, low stamina, and fatigue,” said Decker,
who manages this pain through drugs such as Baclofen, to help
relieve muscle tightness, and Neurontin, a drug that cushions
the sharp sensations. She also uses physical therapy and her
own version of psychological therapy: she types her symptoms
and frustrations out on her computer and tries “to figure
out how to solve my problem,” she said.
I manage to meet the everyday challenges of pain management by
taking it one day at a time and relying on faith, family, and
friends for support,” Decker added. “I know that
if I do this combination with the drug treatments, then I can
have better control over the pain, that at times, can be an obstacle
to living my life.”