Jolane Owings Dickey

Note: thank you CeeJay (Pedersen) for sending the article.

Woman’s MS hasn’t keep her from loving life
Jolane has since passed away.
By David Nankivell
March 19, 2007

For more than two decades, Jolane Dickey, now in her early 60s, has suffered the progressive advancement of an unpredictable disease called multiple sclerosis.

“In the beginning, I would notice small things, a tingling in the toes or fingertips,” Dickey said. “I remember dealing with a condition I called ‘dropped foot.’ I’d be walking and, all at once, my one foot would just lock up with my foot pointed downward. It meant I would have to drag the foot along after each step.”

I sat by the bedside of this upbeat senior, who spends much of her time bedridden, and I was able to observe how one fights back and never gives up the battle. Dickey’s smile is constant; still, the pain never stops. Of course, there are other sand traps and pitfalls to deal with, things like loss of balance, memory loss, lack of concentration and, perhaps, even vision problems.

Dickey has endured setbacks such as coming to terms with having to give up her love of cooking and moving about the kitchen.

“I would have my husband, Frank, lock the braces on my legs, and this would allow me to move from one position to the other, but, now, I have lost the use of my left arm. What’s left is just the pain in that area,” she said.

Dickey recalled how, years ago, she and her husband booked air passage to Germany, seeking a drug or treatment that would relieve the pain or cure the condition.

“At the airport, airline personnel transferred me from my wheelchair to a narrow rolling chair that moves through the aisles of the plane.

Once in my seat next to Frank, I geared up for the 13-hour flight. Later on, I had an urge to use the bathroom and was told I would have to walk to the restroom’s location. I managed to get there with some difficulty. Inside, the facility’s seat was so low, I just let go, and wondered if I would ever be able to rise up again.”

She said there were no grip bars to help a passenger lift from the seat. She did notice small towel racks on one side. In the effort to get up, she held on, and made it, but not without bringing down the racks themselves.

“On the way back down the aisle, I saw a sea of hands and smiling faces reaching out to me to help me back to my seat.”

The doctors in Germany determined Dickey’s case was too far advanced to benefit from their program.

With the help of a loving husband who retired from his teaching post in Camarillo to be at his wife’s side, and many caring friends in Simi Valley, this gracious woman practices the attitude in life that the jar is half-full, not half-empty.

There are four special women who make up the positive side of Dickey’s life. When she talks about them, a smile broadens on her face. “I call them the Jersey Girls. They are Barbara, Carol, Juanita and Nancy.”

All four of the women have been diagnosed with different strains of the same condition.

Together, they share priceless sessions together, but all must plan their outings some time ahead to dine in Simi restaurants and share moments of uplifting humor.

The Friday night I visited the Dickeys’ home, I was informed that later that night the men would play their weekly poker game.

The game is penny ante, but the experience is first-class all the way. At the end of the evening, whoever has come out ahead donates the winnings to Jolane for one of her special projects to send disadvantaged youths to summer camp.

A walk to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society is planned April 14 in Simi Valley. The aim is to create awareness of the disease. Sometimes the number of people affected by a condition can determine how much research and cost will be devoted to develop prevention or a cure. Estimates to determine now many people are affected in the United States are one in 1,000 or 320,000 people.

For more on this or on how to get involved with the walk, call the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Channel Islands Chapter office in Santa Barbara at 682-8783, or visit

— David Nankivell is a Star columnist.