Personal Stories: Rachelle, Perry & Bernie C.

Read about Rachelle, Perry and Bernie's personal experience with exercise and increasing their activity levels.

Rachelle

72 years old, diagnosed at 39 — Denver, Colorado | I’ve found that it’s important for me to try and do my own things — I enjoy cooking and taking walks. I just try and stay busy as much as I can, and I take what I’ve learned here for physical and mental exercises. I started at KADEP in a wheelchair. I did water therapy, and the PT staff worked with me overtime, until one day I got up out of my chair and walked. Every now and then I have to use my cane, or walker, or I have a scooter. Some days are better than other days. When you’re diagnosed, you’re searching and you’re trying to find yourself. I think it’s helpful not to look at someone else and say, why can’t I do this? Go with what you feel is good for you.

Perry

38 years old, diagnosed at 37 — Centennial, Colorado | I do a lot of running, biking and swimming. I have made it a priority. Now love doing these things because of how they make me feel. I will get up early and get a workout in before work and during training I will do another workout when I get home from work.

I have been fortunate so far and have not had to make any adaptations. The symptoms I’ve had with MS have been minimal and outside of fatigue, dizziness and light headedness, and numbness I’m able to perform all of the activities without any changes. I’ve found that it’s a mental game. If I can get my mind right, I can push thru any pain or discomfort and come out on the other side better.

I’ve noticed several great benefits from the exercise and training. I’ve lost 35 pounds to date, have more energy and just feel generally better. It’s also given me a sense of control over the MS. Since there is no cure for MS I had a hard time wrapping my head around what my future was going to be like when I was first diagnosed. Incorporating more exercise has given me a feeling of being able to treat myself. As I’ve completed the goals I have seen my self-confidence come back that I lost somewhere along the journey of life. I’m more confident when facing difficult decisions and feel more confident than ever that I won’t allow MS to eliminate the joys of life.

The greatest challenges I’ve faced in both the exercise and the MS diagnosis is the mental toughness that both require to succeed. When first diagnosed, I struggled with how I was going to live life like I had imagined. Why was this happening to me? How was I going to raise a child and support my family? All of the normal questions that so many people struggle with when facing this diagnosis. The exercise and making being active a lifestyle takes dedication and is a constant battle. There are days that going out and running when it’s only 20 degrees and dark in the morning sound awful, but keeping my mind set on accomplishing the goals I’ve in front of me and making it not just about myself but about my family and doing it for those who can’t have helped me conquer those challenges.

Finding the right support is key, especially when starting out. Throughout all of this my wife has been extremely supportive and helpful with both diet and exercise. My sister has also been there to run or bike right alongside me either during some training sessions or at the races. She was a big triathlete before the diagnosis and has been a big resource for inspiration. Being a part of Meat Fight has also been extremely beneficial. Seeing a group of individuals who are facing the same or harder struggles as me and being able to conquer them is inspiring and helps keep me on track.

Another big thing that has helped me is realizing that this is not just about me; this is for my family and for those who can’t. I have made it a goal to work to raise money for research as best as I can while doing this training so that I can help others that are afflicted with this same disease.

My advice is to just put one foot in front of the other. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how far you ride, swim or run. It’s about being consistent. If the first time you try to run you only make it to the end of the block, it’s okay. Just be sure to go out there and try again the next day and try to go a little farther. If you are consistent with the exercise, it’s amazing, the drastic results you will see and how much better you will feel both mentally and physically.

Bernie C.

73 years old, diagnosed at 48 — Denver, Colorado | Staying active with friends is important and I have a good social life - I go on picnics, I go to dinners and parties. I’m really not limited. Five years ago, I wasn’t as strong as I am now because I wasn’t doing a whole lot. Now I’m active and busy, I just can’t sit.

If you told me five years ago that I’d be able to do a bootcamp the way I do now, I’d never have believed you. I’ve learned it’s important to always give things a try, don’t ever say that you can’t - it’s up to you as an individual to determine how far you want to go.

Throughout this issue, we’re sharing personal stories of real people who’ve made exercise a part of their lives, including several participants in the Rocky Mountain MS Center’s MS Wellness Pilot Program. With generous support from the Jimmie Heuga Foundation, the Wellness Pilot Program was conducted in 2017-18 and focused on making wellness a part of overall MS treatment. Stay tuned to RMMSC communications for more information on what’s next with the MS Wellness Program.