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Denise Ficara

Never Give Up

Holy Name MS Patient - Denise Ficara

"Get up, dress up and never give up" is Denise Ficara's mantra for life.

At 65, Denise has been living with multiple sclerosis for more than two decades, yet she continues to have hope. "One day I want MS to stand for Mystery Solved, but until then, I still live my life," she said.

She admits she wasn't always so optimistic. It took some time for Denise to accept her diagnosis. She had been physically active – running and biking – and commuting to her job in New York City when her left shoulder started bothering her, now more than 25 years ago. The bag she threw over her shoulder on her way to and from work was making it ache and feel weak. A doctor thought it might be MS, but initial bloodwork came back negative and she didn't follow up with any other tests.

As her disease progressed, she ignored such symptoms as having trouble carrying a basket of laundry. Then she fell off her bike, unable to right herself when she started to tilt. She knew she needed to find out what was wrong.

An MRI confirmed what her doctor initially guessed, she had MS. Though she lives in Cranford, she was referred to the MS Center at Holy Name, where she now sees Dr. Asya Wallach, a board-certified neurologist who is fellowship-trained in multiple sclerosis.

"Dr. Wallach is wonderful," Denise said. "She doesn't give false hope, doesn't say I'm going to be running next week. She tells you the truth but she's very upbeat, knowledgeable and compassionate. She helps me live my life to the best of my ability."

Denise's life with her 23-year-old son - her husband died not long after she was diagnosed - is filled with laughter, love and a lot of support from family and friends. They acknowledge her disease but find ways to make sure Denise still does the things she loves. And Thirsty Thursdays, when four to six women friends gather for food and drink twice a month, is a staple in her routine.

Denise gets two infusions of Ocrevus twice a year, which has kept the progression of the disease in check. She said the staff at Holy Name makes it easy for her to get treatment, including valet parking, and always treats her with compassion.

"I know I'm getting the best care there," Denise said.

Still, she worries about the future at times - where she'll be in 10 years, if she'll be able to pay her bills. She quickly dismisses those fears, instead using her sense of humor to cope.

"A woman in the grocery store asked me why I was using my scooter," Denise said. "I told her I'm a leg model and my agent doesn't want me to get any marks on my legs. You have to have a sense of humor through all this. I know I have MS for a reason - I don't know what it is yet. But you can't stop living. You have to just get up, dress up and never give up."

Learn more about Denise's Neurologist