Taking an Active Approach to MS

TAKING AN ACTIVE APPROACH

Why it’s important to take an active approach with your doctor

In 2002, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) after the birth of my sixth child. I was a keen runner. Running was my place to relax—my “me” time, my time to regroup. But my doctor thought I should give up running. Taking an all-or-nothing attitude, I settled into a sedentary lifestyle. If I couldn’t run anymore, why bother? I gained weight, and I felt lousy. I couldn’t help thinking it would be easier to cope if I was in better shape.

Over a decade later, I felt sad looking at pictures of my youngest daughter’s high school graduation. I was 220 pounds, feeling tired, and looking 10 years older than I really was. 

I can count my blessings that my disability level has remained very low over the years. I had many conversations with my neurologist and my primary care physician. They agreed that moderate exercise would be best, as long as my body could tolerate it. It wasn’t until I looked at those photos that I finally decided to listen. Everyone is different, so everyone will see different results. Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine so he or she can help you find one that’s right for you.

With my doctor’s blessing and cautious encouragement, I began a new walking and running regimen. I had to bargain a bit to convince my doctor that I could run. She told me I had to listen to my body and not overtax myself. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. It was the beginning of the summer—and hot! I joined a local running shop’s 5K walk/run program. I was pretty sore in the beginning. I learned how to tell my normal exercise fatigue from my MS fatigue. I also had to learn how to listen—to my doctor and to my body.

This meant learning when to push myself and when to rest. What I was embarking on would require extra rest. Eight hours of sleep per night became a must for me.

Over the following months, I worked hard at following my doctor’s advice and going slow. I increased the time and distance I ran and walked. Some days I was just too tired. At those moments, I realized the importance of my doctor’s advice. I modified my exercise schedule to accommodate a body that was reminding me I had a chronic disease.

I’ve come a long way. I’ve seen an increase in my energy level. I have also competed in some running events. There have been a lot of adjustments along the way. The dialogue with my doctor continues, and I keep her informed of my ups and downs and my progress.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of listening to your doctor and to your body—especially when MS and exercise are involved. Everyone is different. Make sure you discuss any changes to your routine with your doctor. And remember, keep on moving!