Paula McGinnis battles autoimmune disease with faith, courage

  • Photo by Gary McGinnis

    Paual McGinnis is promoting the second walk for Myasthenia Gravis set for Saturday starting at Kapaa Beach Park and continuing on He Ala Hele Makalae.

KAPAA — The 2017 theme for the National Myasthenia Gravis of America was “I AM MG STRONG.”

When Paula McGinnis pondered on the theme, her thoughts were filled with the positive, not negative, impacts that Myasthenia Gravis has had on her life and what has actually made her stronger.

“I have learned that I am MG strong, because when I am weak, I am strengthened by keeping my faith, perseverance and positive attitude through the adversities,” McGinnis said.

The primary conclusion is all about awareness, she said.

“I thought that I had my life all planned out, WRONG! Life can change in an instant from what we had planned or even dreamed about,” she said. “Life can change drastically with the rare autoimmune disease.”

McGinnis, ambassador for MG in Southern Illinois and Hawaii, is the driving force behind Saturday’s Hawaii MG Walk at Kapaa Beach Park. Registration is at 9 with the walk beginning at 10.

The walk is through the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America.

It will be the second walk for Myasthenia Gravis in Hawaii.

There were about 70 who attended last year’s first walk on Kauai.

“I continue to stay MG Strong because as an Ambassador it allows me to share awareness with others, which do not know about MG, and gives me the opportunity to let other MG patients know that they are not alone in the world with the rare neuromuscular disease,” she said.

MG can strike quickly.

McGinnis was a happy, energetic woman in her 50s and a full-time neurology nurse, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter and caregiver of elderly parents.

She ran five to seven miles seven days a week, ate healthy including drinking plenty of water. She would often run extra or mow the lawn in the evening to destress from working in the medical field.

Myasthenia Gravis causes weakness of the voluntary muscle. There is no known cure.

“Yes, I walk the shoes of Myasthenia Gravis, but it is not the end of the world,” McGinnis said. “Through my persevering personality I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to make a difference by becoming an advocate for MG in my region in 2014, where there had not been any awareness, and I began the Southern Illinois Walk.”

As an ambassador, she takes bringing awareness anywhere her journey leads her, even on vacation.

“It is because I am MG strong that I took my awareness with me to Hawaii on vacation and began the first MG walk in the state of Hawaii in February 2017,” she said.

McGinnis describes herself as someone who is all about the principle of things.

“I never did like change, but the change made by having MG when diagnosed 12 years ago has made my mind MG Strong, even when my body is weak,” she said. “I have learned to stand firm as my own advocate, persevere, and most of all continue the journey as an Ambassador for Myasthenia Gravis wherever my journey may lead me.”

She credits the support of family, friends, acquaintances, and her husband, Gary, for seeing her through tough times.

“I am thankful every day that my husband is my best friend, and I consider him my MG caregiver hero, if I need one. If anyone, in my life, truly understands MG and walks in the shoes with me it is him. As I journey through life with MG I have realized the importance of, as the expression goes, ‘Take time to smell the roses.’”

To join the team, Hawaii-Garden Isle Walkers or make a donation:

  1. Joan Wincentsen February 14, 2018 6:00 am Reply

    Paula is an amazing advocate for others who struggle with myasthenia gravis. Thank you for sharing her story!

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