• 63°

Artful Therapy: Rebecca Abrego combats M.S. with homespun wreaths

PORT NECHES — Rebecca Abrego was diagnosed with an extreme case of multiple sclerosis three years ago, a disease that completely deteriorated most muscle and movement in her hands. Finding herself lost, confused and in pain, the Nederland native found solace and strength in an unlikely place — making wreaths.

“I have multiple sclerosis,” Abrego stated, unafraid. “I was diagnosed three years ago and apparently I’ve had it undetected since I was in my 20s.”

Abrego, 55, who was a part time chiropractor in her younger years, remembers thinking the pain in both hands was simply carpal tunnel, numbness and tingling in the hand often caused by a pinched nerve.

As she continued her life, not knowing the prognosis that awaited her, Abrego went back to school to be a part of a field that didn’t involve too much body movement — speech pathology.

“But with the multiple sclerosis I realized I was starting to slur and it was hard to be a speech pathologist that slurred,” she said.

After her plans once again fell through, Abrego found herself living in Mont Belvieu near Baytown doing home care before she finally decided to return home to be closer to family.

“One day after I moved back, almost right after the diagnosis, I went into Hobby Lobby around Christmas time and saw the wreaths,” she said. “They were so expensive and I didn’t have the money. So I bought a book on making wreaths and that’s what I started doing.”

Abrego was giving herself multiple shots a week to combat the multiple sclerosis but what she found to help the most was simply arts and crafts.

“It’s made things easier,” she said. “When I was first diagnosed, I had so many issues with my hands. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t give myself the shots anymore. I started making the wreaths and a miracle happened, my hands became stronger.”

The current Port Neches resident started a business by just giving away her creations, which is how she met Mae Terro, executive director of the United Board of Missions.

Terro met Abrego shortly after she and her husband moved in to the house across from her on West Drive in Port Neches.

“I noticed shortly after we moved in that (Abrego) had a wreath in her hand and she took one to our neighbors every so often,” Terro said. “I happened to be outside one day and she asked if I wanted one for my door. I said yes and that I would pay for it. She told me ‘no, I just do it for therapy.’ I told her we have a resale shop where we sell things like that and I asked if she would want me to take a couple over so she could sell them.”

Although she initially hesitated, Abrego agreed to sell the wreaths after a switch in medicine came to cost her $2,000 every two months to combat the M.S.

Terro said she immediately started selling them in her shop.

“To me, it was helping her to think that someone could buy what she made,” Terro said. “Anyone who buys one, I tell them where it comes from to know that what they are doing is helping someone.”

Terro said she respects Abrego’s consistent fight and strength.

“I admire her so much for not just sitting down and letting this disease take over her life,” she said. “The wreaths make her happy and I’m glad to just be a small part of it.”

Abrego now sells and customizes her creations for any holiday or event from Halloween and Christmas to baby showers and birthday parties. Aside from the relief it brings, Abrego said her favorite part is pride in a finished product.

“They’re beautiful,” she said. “I put lights on them and I do everything. It’s amazing what something so simple has done for me.”

Wreaths vary in size and can range anywhere from $20-$60. All profits go towards helping Abrego fight her multiple sclerosis by providing her much needed medicine, Ocrevus.

To purchase a wreath, call Rebecca Abrego at (409) 540-7812 or stop by the United Board of Missions ‘Mission Attic’ at 3300 Twin City Hwy in Groves. Wreaths are also on display at the Fraternal Order of Eagles at 2313 Nederland Ave.