Channing Barker: A face of young MS
For college student Channing Barker, 22, a summer internship with the Society’s Public Policy Office in Washington, D.C., made great sense. Not only is she working on a double major in political science and broadcast journalism, but she and her mother have been active in the Society since Channing was diagnosed with MS at age 16.
“My mom went to the Society’s Public Policy Conference for a couple of years, and it sounded so cool,” Channing recalled. She was further inspired when she attended a 2010 White House celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “So this spring I applied for a summer internship. I wanted to learn how I could work toward more research and more funding to find a cure for this disease.” She has been the face of the disease to some young legislators and their health advisers. “I met legislators who perhaps had never met someone with MS.”
Channing was a cheerleader at a high school basketball game, “flying in the air,” when suddenly she couldn’t feel or lift her legs. Three months of doctor visits, MRIs, spinal taps, and the inability to walk followed, until she was diagnosed in April 2006. Since then she’s been on meds and feels good, although “not every day is a good day,” she reported. “I can’t stay up late, my cognition is affected, and I can’t dance like I used to. One of the first things this disease took away was my balance.”
But not her drive.
In college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, she, along with others with a connection to MS, started a group called Students Supporting MS Research. “It got the community involved, including my sorority sisters, who surprised me this year by making and selling shirts to raise money,” she said.
Channing, who’s from Tulsa and will graduate in 2012, said she is still deciding on her future. “I want what everyone does—a family and a career. I don’t feel like this disease is going to stop me. I’ll slap it in the face and say no. I would love to come back and work in D.C., advocating for MS research on the Hill,” she said. “I take it as my job to advocate for people with this disease.”