Multiple Sclerosis and the Power of Positive Thinking

Steve Health Guide
  • I know the title of this SharePost seems a bit clichéd, but if you have read any of my previous articles then you will know how important optimism and a positive sense of control is in the overall portfolio of remedies for MS that I employ. 


    Let me share with you an experience I had this summer that may seem a bit difficult to believe, especially to those confronting the physical and emotional challenges of MS.  But here goes.  Like many people with primary progressive MS, I've spent a lot of time dreaming of doing things that I once took for granted, like running, swimming or biking.  I never really viewed the ability to move through life unfettered by a mangled nervous system as a blessing until the capability to do so was stolen by an unfriendly disease process.

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    Anyway, here's the background to my amazing experience. My family and I always spend a couple of weeks at the beach each year and have been doing so for 25 years.  Before MS, I used to always make a five to ten mile run part of my daily routine.  There is nothing better than running at the beach with the warm sun, the nice flat surface and the salt air filling your lungs.  Unfortunately, as the MS started to erode my physical capabilities, I no longer could run (at the beach or anywhere else).  It really made me frustrated each year to see all the joggers happily pounding the pavement knowing that I couldn't enjoy the same feeling.


    It was in August of this summer that the most amazing thing happened to me.  Let me provide a little context.  Thanks to a new medication that I began taking three years ago (Zenapax / Daclizumab), my physical capabilities began to improve; so much so that I started running, swimming and biking again (admittedly at a very slow pace).  However, when you've been unable to run, swim or bike for 17 years, then any pace is a good pace.  I had become quite comfortable with the reality that running a mile at a 15 minute pace was really quite a blessing.


    I have three daughters who run cross country and track, but I tend not to run with them because it really is difficult for them to run as slow as I do.  Although they are good sports and tell me it is no problem to stick with me, I try not to burden them with my glacial pace.  However, we all decided one early afternoon during our week at the beach to head out together for a quick run.  About thirty minutes into our run an ominous summer thunderstorm started to brew and we knew it best to head back to the beach house. 


    Even with the reduced physical impairment that I attribute to the new course of medicine, keep in mind that the act of running for me is still quite a challenge.  I've often fallen, trip quite frequently and shuffle along at a pace that is a bit embarrassing. However, just being "on the road" again makes me happy, as I was that day.  In addition, being at the beach and being there with my daughters was such a thrill.  All of these positive factors converged that day as a cool and steady rain began to fall.  As the skies darkened and lightning started to percolate around us, we felt it best to head back as quickly as possible.  It was at that moment in time that my legs started obediently listening to the messages from my brain and started churning at a rapid, pre-MS pace.  I took the lead and started running faster than any of my three girls.  They were shocked, as was I.  It really was an out-of-body experience.  But in my mind, it was more a result of the happiness I was feeling at the moment.  I'm sure the endorphins played a role, but there just was no explaining why my movement was so unaffected by disability that afternoon. 


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    This story may be hard to believe, but I write this story to convey a message:  I do believe that there is an inherent mind-over-matter capability we all have if we engage with things that make us happy.  Emotional buoyancy can sometimes be a challenge when you have MS, but marinate yourself in things that bring you joy and some of the pain, frustration and limits of MS just might recede.  What makes you happy?  Surround yourself with those things and anything is possible.  It really is.


Published On: October 07, 2010