OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- An Overland Park tennis coach found out years ago that he has a serious, chronic disease. Only now is he telling students and others in hopes they'll see that multiple sclerosis is no match for the human spirit.
Tennis stroke after stroke, there's no hint of Anthony Perkins' stroke of misfortune. It hit him six years ago on the court.
"I suddenly felt the left side of my face drop and get very numb as well as my legs, arms, all down my left side," says Anthony.
He was soon diagnosed with MS, a disease that breaks down the covering on nerve fibers and can take away balance and movement. After moving to the metro four years ago, the coach at the Midtown Athletic Club kept his diagnosis a secret from students and most co-workers. He figured he looks fine.
"First of all, I didn't want people to think I was lying and secondly, I just didn't want sympathy for it," say Anthony.
But recently, he saw a story about a basketball player with MS who signed a 10-day NBA contract.
"He said he wanted to be the face of MS, and I thought I could do that," says Anthony.
So he's telling students about his diagnosis.
"Sometimes I get sick. Yea, that's why sometimes I'm not here," Anthony explains to 9-year-old Lydia.
But most of the time, Anthony is still on the court in spite of fatigue and numbness. Next month, he'll compete in a qualifier for the U.S. Open.
"I want to show my students it's okay to go out and compete and take a risk and put yourself on the line," says Anthony.
Lydia is grasping the lesson.
"Don't give up," she says.
That's the point in tennis and in life no matter what's lobbed your way.
Anthony is holding a Black Tie Optional benefit for the National MS Society on June 15 at 6 p.m. at the Midtown Athletic Club, 6700 W. 110th Street in Overland Park. The event will include tennis, zumba, yoga, a silent auction and food and drinks. Call 913-491-4116 for tickets or go to www.msmidamerica.org.
Anthony is also taking donation pledges for the National MS Society for competing in the U.S. Open qualifier.