I remember I would come home from school every day and sit on the bed next to her, and while she lay there with her eyes closed so that she wouldn't get nauseous, I would tell her jokes just to keep her spirits up. We would laugh together every afternoon, but when I went back to my room, I was always scared. I had no idea what was wrong and wanted to know that she would be OK.
Finally, after three months, Kaley was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). She was only 12 years old at the time. I was sad and scared for her, even though I didn't really understand what MS meant.
But she didn't seem scared at all. Her symptoms had improved by the time of her diagnosis, and she was determined to not let this disease get the best of her.
I watched her research information about her disease. I remember when she made the decision to learn to give herself her injections so that she could feel independent and do everything her friends did, like go to sleepovers and on school trips.
Kaley has always been positive and strong. Even if her legs were weak or some part of her body wasn't functioning correctly, she would never let it get to her. Yet what she was going through affected my whole family. I realized how important every moment of life is, and we all started adapting to the way we lived by recognizing our blessings.
One of these blessings has been Kaley's friends. A year after she was diagnosed, my sister and her friends, with the encouragement from a special teacher, started raising money toward a cure for MS by participating in the annual MS Walk. I enjoyed that day so much, because I got to help fundraise, and I got to feel like I could do something to help her.
Another thing that amazed me is how my friends came each year to the walk and often donated part of their bar/bat mitzvah money to the MS Society in honor of Kaley.
The first year we did the MS Walk, I was in fifth grade, and Kaley and her friends were in eighth grade. We raised over $5,000! The most incredible part for all of us was that Kaley realized that even though we were "just kids," we had amazing potential to make a difference and to be a part of the cure. She helped motivate everyone around her to grow our team each year to the point where it became a national nonprofit organization called, Youth Against MS, Inc. (YAMS).
I am now a senior at Beverly Hills High School, and Kaley is in her second year of college at USC, and boy have we come a long way from those days laughing together on her bed. Today, YAMS has raised more than $250,000 and has educated thousands of teens all over the country.
I have gained so much from working toward the success of YAMS and from watching Kaley and other people with MS persevere through their disease.
We are getting ready for this year's MS Walk, and I want to personally ask everyone reading this for your help. I want to see my sister live a full and healthy life.
Kaley has been very sick these past four months and has not been healthy enough to put time and energy into the walk. Therefore, she has been unable to get the sponsors, support and team members that usually make the walk so successful.
I want to see our dear friends who are struggling each day to be cured and regain abilities that many of us take for granted. You can be a part of the cure.
What we have done with the essential help of our friends and family is proof that you truly have the power to make a difference.
So please join us at the MS Walk on Sunday, April 22, at the Pasadena Rose Bowl by signing up at www.YouthAgainstMS.org or sponsor us by sending a check to 468 S. Roxbury Drive, No. 304, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Please make all checks payable to National MS Society and write "YAMS" on the memo line.
And please, always keep those in our community who have MS in your prayers.
Leor Zeitouni is a senior at Beverly Hills High School.