She was also honored as Woman of the Year by the MS Society for devoting time and energy to the agency’s fund-raising efforts for the disease.

Cathy discovered that the pins and needles in her arm were a sign that something awful was happening to her body in September 1998. Even that day, she had no plans to see a doctor. However, her coworkers persisted. It had been her company’s second year assisting the National MS Society of South Florida put on a fashion show, and there were nine weeks until the gala luncheon and fashion show.

The luncheon also marked the first time Cathy told a group of strangers she had a disease that may, at worst, paralyze her or cause her nervous system to shut down completely. “There was not a dry eye in the house as she talked,” said Carrie Schulman, a volunteer for the MS Society. “You do not know what will happen, that’s what’s scary about it,” Cathy said. “I don’t know where in my body it will hit. I don’t know.”

Cathy’s body does not currently, and possibly not for a number of years, exhibit any overt symptoms of the illness except for the occasional headache. Cathy no longer has time for crying. Even early this year, she made the decision that she doesn’t have time for work. The former executive’s priorities in life have changed, and she now spends the majority of her time with her kids.

She and her ex-husband Nick had planned to bring the whole family to this year’s luncheon on Tuesday afternoon at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. With her ex-husband, children, and parents watching, Cathy accepted the society’s Woman of the Year award.

Meanwhile, since she decided to shift her priorities in life, Graziadei spends more time with her children.