Yes, I believe it can be done. As a person who has been winning the battle for 18 years, I write this blog to provide hope, inspiration and knowledge to those confronting the challenges of MS.
I first encountered the symptoms of MS on New Years Day, 1992 with an onset of Optic Neuritis. At that time, there were many things that I did not understand about the disease, especially the profound changes it would bring. Now stick with me on this. Little did I also understand the true blessing that MS would be to me and my family. It may be difficult to understand that being diagnosed with MS has changed my life for the positive.
In reading this blog, you will get a better sense behind my logic and the steps that I've taken that give me pride in successfully confronting MS. Although my story is a positive one, please keep in mind that there have been many struggles along the way and times when I really did not think I had enough mental or physical toughness to conquer the challenges of MS. I've fallen while walking through airports, tripped going up (and down) the steps, bumped into many a door jamb, and so on. I've felt shame and embarrassment in not being able to teach my daughters how to play soccer, hit a tennis ball or run together. But I have never given in nor given up and have continually pushed myself to emphasize physical fitness and exercise as a key lever in winning the battle. So let me start off with a little background.
I am 52 years old, with a wonderful family: my wife (of 21 years) and three daughters of 20, 16 and 16. Before the onset of MS, I played tennis, soccer, golf and was an avid runner. When first diagnosed in early 1992, I was devastated by the expectation that my future would be one that involved a lack of mobility, a cessation of athletic endeavors, limitations on my career and a burden to my family. To summarize and simplify my journey with MS, I believe there have been four stages.
Stage 1 - Denial (1992 - 1994):
For the first few years I practiced denial, constantly looking for doctors who would find some other cause than MS for my poor balance, lack of coordination and blurred vision. I was actually happy when various doctors found a spinal cord compression to be the cause and a subsequent spinal cord fusion surgery was performed. In retrospect, the surgery only made my symptoms worse, but emotionally, I was still contented that I was not an MS "victim".
Stage 2 - Regretful Acceptance (1994-1998):
The negative progression of symptoms made me continue to seek out more medical advice and after numerous MRI's, CT Scans and spinal taps I did eventually accept that I had MS in 1994. It is at this point that I decided that MS would not define me. I am an inherent optimist and have always believed that the future holds the promise for individual improvement, whether as a father, husband, son, or in one's career. I had no intention that MS would change my basic nature to fulfill on my expectations for myself. So I bought fitness equipment and configured half of my basement as a home gym. I decided that I was the one who would decide how this disease impacted me and committed to a five day a week exercise program. Working in the gym most evenings for 60 minutes gave me a sense of pride and a feeling that I was in control. I still was worried about the unpredictable course of the disease and unsure what the future would hold, but just kept heading to the basement on most evenings, whether fatigued or not.