Mountain Climbing with Multiple Sclerosis

Patient Expert

Get out your boots and strap on a harness... we're going mountain climbing

Living with multiple sclerosis is much like climbing a mountain. So says Wendy Broker, the mountain climber who happens to have MS. Still, she has already climbed to the tallest peaks on six continents and this spring will attempt Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain.

One can't help but admire her. Many contributors to this site, myself included, have complained about the images of athletic and energetic MS patients, taking the world by storm -- climbing mountains and running marathons as if their MS is just a minor annoyance that can be easily ignored. It makes the rest of us feel inadequate. The thing is, I never was particularly athletic in the first place and never would have attempted to climb a mountain anyway.

On the flip side are those among us in wheelchairs or nursing homes due to MS. It's a fact that some of us get hit hard and suffer major disability. The truth is, neither picture is the whole picture. The spectrum of MS includes the mountain climbers, the very disabled, and everyone who falls in between. That's most of us. We're all part of the picture.

As Ms. Broker   says, "You think of the worst case, and you immediately picture someone you know who's in a wheelchair. It was from the anger that I said, 'Before I get in that wheelchair, I'm gonna run the Boston Marathon.' I knew there was more I had to do."

If I'm reading her correctly, this is a woman who is very much aware of the whole spectrum of MS. She knows where she stands at this very moment, but also understands that the years ahead are unpredictable. Rather than hesitate and risk her dreams passing her by, she's living up to her full potential right now.

She likes to climb mountains, so why stop? With a little help from her friends, she is capable of reaching her goal.

We can take a lesson from Wendy. We're all at different points in our journey, and none of us has a road map. All we really have is today, this very moment in time. Whatever our physical disabilities, we still have many abilities, and we must take care not to squander our time.

That's something all human beings can take to heart, not just people living with a chronic illness. Who among us really knows what tomorrow will bring?

Plan for the future, but live... really live... today.