Hi. My name is Colleen and I have wanted to submit a blog here about my experiences with MS over the past few months, but am just finally getting the courage to do so. I was officially diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS in January 2012, after several months of testing. The symptom that lead to my diagnosis was a seizure, which I am finding is not the most common way to find out. My first neurologist and his nurse were my saving graces over the next year as I dealt with many of the emotions and questions that come from this type of news. The amount of emails that they answered for me got me through some of the hardest days. There are so many “what ifs” and so much information that it can be both scary and overwhelming.
I began taking Tysabri in April 2012 and am currently still following this course of treatment. I have not had side effects, remained JC Virus negative, have had no new symptoms and continue to show no changes on my MRI. The main issue I have had is with anxiety. My anxiety is not classified as a symptom, but more as my way of trying to feel safe in the midst of the uncertainty that comes with MS. This created havoc in my life as simple everyday things such as driving, taking the train, attending a meeting at work or exercising were met with panic and anxiety seemingly out of the blue.
This leads me to the reason I wanted to share a blog in the first place. As a way to take a stand against my MS and the anxiety it has been causing me, I signed up for the 2013 Boston Marathon. I had been an avid runner when I was younger and had done a few half marathons prior to my diagnosis, but I became paralyzed with a fear of working out or pushing myself too hard once the diagnosis was official. I applied to the National MS Society’s team and was accepted. I started training in December of 2012, as an unprepared, terrified girl and it was the best decision of my life. The training was hard, but my body was able to push through it and I met some of the most supportive and inspiring people. I went to the starting line that April confident I would finish and it would symbolize my control over MS. Unfortunately, the 2013 Boston Marathon was not as expected due to the tragic bombing and consequent events that unfolded and I became more determined to win this battle with MS.
The 2014 Boston Marathon and the training that went with it changed my life for the better in so many ways. For one, I started to see glimmers of my “pre-MS” self, not the anxious person trying to control every situation to protect against flairs that I had become. I got my confidence back, I made lifelong friendships with people who have similar goals and passions, and I became unafraid to go after what I want. During this time, I was also raising money for the MS society to help others too. When race day came, I didn’t have my “dream” race, but I enjoyed every mile, cheer, hug, high 5 and friendly face (family, friends, and strangers) along the way.
Crossing that finish line was the best feeling in the world – not only did I accomplish a lifelong goal, but it also symbolized a fresh start for me with my MS. It may be a long road (like a marathon) and there will be hills and rough spots, but there will always be supportive faces to aid you and a finish line to push toward and new journeys to look forward to. While I still have anxiety issues from time to time, I am able to manage them better after the mental aspect of marathon training and no longer flee situations as I did in the past. I may not always be able to run, but I am not going to let the uncertainty of the future prevent me from enjoying experiences today.
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