Day 1: Slow and Steady

So we got a bit of a later start on today because I knew I would have a hard time falling asleep last night (it took me 3 hours to calm my nerves;)). We started at 8am downtown Ft. Wayne and I was blessed to have my mom right by my side. It was pretty incredible to start this journey with the person who I started the journey of life with!! Thank you, momma for all of your support and unconditional love.

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I knew that I wanted to dedicate each day to different people who have impacted my life but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to do that. After much thought, I decided to bring back a childhood pastime of mine, making friendship bracelets. There’s a special one that I would make all of the time with the neighborhood kids and to this day have taught several kids at the different camps I’ve worked at!

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So today, is dedicated to my incredible mom, dad, and 2 younger sisters. They have been with me every step of the way. They encourage me to be a better person and support me when I sign up for crazy endeavors such as this!! I can honestly say, I have no idea where I would be today without you 4. I love you more than words.

We walked most of the day because I wanted to take it nice and slow. I tend to go too fast too soon and when you’re running 177 miles, that’s not something you want to do. However, walking is so much harder for me than running. Guess I’ve been a crazy runner for too long!! 😉 We made it to the Ohio border after about 17 miles!!

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Well, we finished around 5:30. It was a very long and toasty day. I will for sure be starting before the sun comes up tomorrow to beat the heat!

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Now, time for some food, shower, and sleep!!

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Bags are packed and emotions are flying

It’s so unreal to think that 8 months ago, I received the acceptance card from Ashley to be a part of the 2014 MS Run the US relay team. I remember thinking, “oh that’s in July, I’ve got a really long time.” Well, my friends, July is here and I begin my segment in just 2 short days!!!

As I have been packing and preparing for this incredible adventure, I have been, once again, reassured that I have some of the most incredible, supportive, encouraging, positive, MS butt kicking friends and family.

My friend Erica has been helping me so much with strength training, stretching, coaching, and just keeping the nerves calm. When we got done with our last session this week, Erica gave me this awesome care package. You’re the best, Erica!!

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On Wednesday, I went to lunch with Monica and Paula from the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the NMSS. These two women are the main reason I even found out about MS Run the US when they invited me to attend the National MS Leadership Conference this past year. Everyone at the entire Greater Carolinas Chapter has been so supportive and encouraging and they all came together and made this awesome care package. Thank you everyone for all you do for this fight!

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Then, after lunch, I came home to this very unexpected package from 3 of the guys who have kept me active, keep me laughing, and remind me to live life to it’s fullest.  It’s a bravelet bracelet and part of the proceeds go to Can Do MS foundation. Thank you Scott, Kyle, and Craig for this incredible bracelet and for your friendship.

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Needless to say, my emotions have been flying, and I am overwhelmed by all of this love and support, so to top it all off, some of my running girls and great friends all chipped in and made me the BEST gluten free/running care package a girl could ever get. Thank you, Kristin, Jackie, Katie N., Katie P., Jen, Jenny, and Leigh for your thoughtfulness and awesomeness!!

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And now my wrists are filled with incredible, meaningful bracelets. photo 2 (1)

My left arm muscles are going to be extra strong by the end of the week. 😉

This morning, I had coffee with one of my college girlfriends and she of course got my emotions going again. Thanks Jame for my 1 card a day. I will be sure to share those tears with you every day!! Love you.

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So for now, we have a quick pit stop in Columbus, OH for our friends Shannon and Jon’s wedding and to see my little sister and her boyfriend!

Stay tuned for many more updates. You all ROCK MY WORLD! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

A day to reflect

May 16, 2003, the day before my 19th birthday, the words “Sara, you have MS” rocked my entire world.  Emotions were flying all over the place- denial, anger, fear, sadness, more denial, hope, a lot more denial, and a little more hope. I had no idea what my late teens and entire 20’s would bring but I knew it would take the support of my family and friends, a positive attitude, hope and lots of faith to not allow MS to have me.

As I sit here exactly 11 years later, the day before my 30th birthday, I can honestly say I struggle to find words to describe what the past 11 years have brought to my life. However, one thing I can say that has given me the drive to get up every morning, the faith to keep going, and the hope that one day there will be a cure is the insane amount of unconditional love and support my parents and my two sisters have given me no matter what crazy endeavors I have become involved in. They can tell how I am feeling just by my tone of voice, know when to listen, and know when to jump in and tell me I’m crazy. If it wasn’t for these 4 amazing human beings I would not be where I am today.

The strength, love, and sense of humor of all of the amazing friendships I have gained throughout the past 11 years have truly taught me what friendship really means. To my sorority sisters who were by my side as I got MRI’s, had scary reactions to medications, and reminded me that I have MS but MS doesn’t have me. To my BGR friends who gave me the comfort to face my MS instead of continuing to deny it and continuously taught me that I can enjoy being a college student while still making a difference in the world one person at a time. And to the many many friendships I have gained since my college days, you all have taught me what it’s like to have different kinds of friendships and to cherish every single one because we all are making a difference in the world we live in.

And then there’s my husband. Dating with MS is a whole other blog post in itself but I was one to never hide the fact I had MS. I was up front right away with every guy I even kind of liked because he deserved to know what his future may hold and I deserved to know how he just might handle it. Well let’s just say I dated a lot of different guys in my 20’s and I was ready to be done with dating altogether because I just hadn’t found the right one yet. Then because of good friends looking out for us single people, I was introduced to Andy. After a few fun low key dates, telling him I have MS, introducing him to my mom and sisters after 2 dates (this was a HUGE deal), and bringing him to meet my college guy friends after 2 months of dating I knew I had met the man who will make my life complete.

I’m not saying that the past 11 years have all been smiles and bliss. There have been plenty of trials and tribulations in the there but those are what have given me the strength to keep going and the courage to keep fighting with a Kick Butt attitude and a smile.

Today, I feel a heart full of love and shed tears of complete gratitude. Now here’s to the next 11 years of fighting hard so we can say we don’t have to fight any more.

 

It’s all in the mindset

Phew…month one of training has been completed and oh boy what a month it was. This by far was one of the most challenging months that I have had physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So here are my top 10 take aways from my first month of training for my segment of MS Run the US.

10. Sierra, our dog, is a fabulous running partner who is always up for the challenge of a long run in the dark. She’s always ready to protect!!

9. Stretching and Strengthening is HUGE. Because of all of my running in the past and not taking the time to stretch, I have been in extreme pain in my piriformis (because of weak glute/ core muscles) for the past several months. This has made sitting, standing, sleeping, walking and running very painful. Therefore, I decided it was time to check myself in to physical therapy. After learning different stretches and strengtheners, I was able to graduate within 2 months!!! Thank you Select Physical Therapy for your guidance and knowledge.

8. The strength of my legs and arms is extremely important, but one lesson I have learned this month is the importance of the strength of my core muscles because they affect every movement I make. By incorporating core exercises after every run, I can feel my core getting stronger every day!! Along with my legs and arms.

7.  Stress Management is key to good health. As I have started running again, I figured out where I carry all of my stress and tension…in my neck and shoulders. I have also figured out that I need to find a way to manage my stress because I can’t always rely on running. I have incorporated weekly yoga and incorporating daily personal development to start which is helping.

6. Being a strong runner doesn’t happen over night like I want it to. The Olympics really helped set this straight in my mind. It takes a great amount of hard work, dedication, discipline, and determination to get where I want to go.

5.  I’m not weak, I’m putting strength back into my body.

4.  I truly love how running is a time of reflection and deep thinking for me. It is when I have some of my deepest thoughts and most amazing ideas. Now I just need to start running with a recorder :).

3.Nutrition is HUGE. It doesn’t matter what I do physically if I bomb it with my eating. Thank goodness for Herbalife!!

2. I have the most amazing, supportive, open minded husband who I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without. I am very grateful to have him as a teammate on this amazing journey.

1. Not only is running truly a mindset, but so is life. It can be so easy to let the negative thoughts race through my mind. But what’s even more amazing is when those negative thoughts are kicked out and completely reversed by encouraging, motivating, positive thoughts that will do nothing but make me a better runner and all around person.

I’m so excited to see where this amazing journey takes me, and I can already tell it’s going to be amazing.

Here are a few photos from month one.

photo 1As I was teaching shapes to my first graders, we came across this template. Of course I had them all complete it!!

photo 2Pre-run with my furry child, Sierra. She could hardly stand still for the picture. 🙂

photo 3A little post run pose from one of our late night runs.

photo (1)My reflection from month one to push me into the upcoming months.

Bring it on Month 2…

So what is MS?

This was the million dollar question that not only I had for my parents and doctors but the question that my friends and family had for me.

After reading several books, talking with other people who had MS, speaking with doctors, and learning from my mom (who did an amazing amount of research), I was able to answer that tough question. Here are some basic facts about Multiple Sclerosis:

1. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves)

2. The immune system attacks the myelin that protects our nerves. When the myelin is damaged the messages traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are interrupted which is what causes all of the many different symptoms for MS.

3. MS gets it’s name because the damaged myelin forms scar tissues and sclerosis means scars.

4. There are 4 stages of Multiple Sclerosis (information taken from http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Types-of-MS):

  • Relapsing Remitting (RRMS): the most common stage (which is what I have). This stage is when someone may experience relapses/flare ups/exacerbations but will have partial to full recovery periods with little to no repercussions.
  • Secondary Progressive (SPMS): The name for this course comes from the fact that it follows after the relapsing-remitting course. Most people who are initially diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to SPMS, which means that the disease will begin to progress more steadily (although not necessarily more quickly), with or without relapses
  • Primary Progressive (PPMS): PPMS is characterized by steadily worsening neurologic function from the beginning. Although the rate of progression may vary over time with occasional plateaus and temporary, minor improvements, there are no distinct relapses or remissions. About 10 percent of people with MS are diagnosed with PPMS.
  • Progressive Relapsing (PRMS):PRMS — the least common of the four disease courses — is characterized by steadily progressing disease from the beginning and occasional exacerbations along the way. People with this form of MS may or may not experience some recovery following these attacks; the disease continues to progress without remissions.

5. MS affects every single person differently which is why it is so hard to diagnose.

6. When I was diagnosed the medications available were injections only. Now there are several injections, a few pills, and an infusion that will help slow the progression of MS.

7. MS affects more women than men between 20 and 50 years old.

8. Vitamin D levels have a huge impact on those living with MS.

9. Pregnancy can relieve MS symptoms.

10. There are over 2.3 million people throughout the world living with MS.

Here is a great video that gives you a visual of what MS is.

Other Resources with more information.

http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Definition-of-MS

http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/MS-FAQ-s

Hearing diagnosis words…

It was the second Saturday in May of 2003, the day before my 19th birthday. I had just finished my final exam of my Freshman year in college after getting little to no sleep the night before because of the excruciating pain in my neck. My feet were tingly, I couldn’t see very well, and I was extremely dizzy, but it was move out day from the 6th floor of my dorm room. The elevators were broken, there were tornadoes going through the area so my parents weren’t able to make it up there, and I had a whole lot of stuff to cram into my Jeep Cherokee, Jerry!

After a couple falls, lots of help from gracious strangers, and one packed JerBear, I made the 1 hour journey home to spend my first summer working my first “real” job and being a big bad sophomore in college. Little did I know that I would hear four powerful words that would change my life, attitude, and outlook for the rest of my life.

It is still that second Saturday in May when my parents, and one of my 2 younger sisters suggested that we should all go to church and then celebrate the completion of my first year of college. There is a really special nature path at my childhood church, that my dad suggested we walk down before going inside. As we were walking, he stopped with tears coming down his face and then I look at my mom and sister and they are both crying. I had no idea until my dad was the one that shared some of the hardest words he has ever had to as a father, ” Sara, you have multiple sclerosis.” Well, now I am crying because I have no idea what this means for my future and all I want to know is 1. Am I going to die? and 2. Can I have children? It all was so new to my parents but thank goodness they know me because they knew the answers to both of those questions: “No you’re not going to die,” and “Yes you can have children, in fact pregnancy can be great for women with MS.” After talking further, my mom told me that they had known for a whole week before telling me because they didn’t want to ruin my finals week. The craziest part of my mom knowing was that we went to a concert together that week and that is one of the rare symptoms made its debut (blister in the back of the throat). She didn’t say a word. I can’t even imagine the feelings that were going through her as my mother. After hearing some answers, shedding lots of tears, and sharing a little bit of laughter, I was relieved. I at least had an answer and could figure out the next step I needed to take.

The next day (my 19th birthday), I started an intense IV of steroids that I was lucky to be able to do at home with my immediate family and extended family by my side. Much to my surprise, my amazing high school friends came together and planned a surprise birthday party to celebrate and to console and encourage me in whatever the next step will entail. I will forever be grateful for that party. It gave me hope that things are going to be okay.

Let’s just say, I do not remember 1 minute about the next 2 weeks of my life. I slept for 2 whole weeks because my body needed some TLC which required nothing but sleep and steroids.

Needless to say, my first summer as a college student was one that I will never forget and one that changed my life.

Early signs of MS

As an 18 year old and a Freshman in college, I thought I had life by the hand. I was living on my “own,” no curfew, and I didn’t have to check in with anyone. My thoughts consisted of which party should I attend, how could I meet some new friends, should I join a sorority, which extracurricular activities should I join, and of course what time is class because I can’t miss it today!! 😉

But just like any freshman, there were ups and downs, and lots of emotions being felt. For me, it really hit home when I woke up one cold, snowy February morning and my entire body was numb and tingly from head to toe. Everything felt like it was falling asleep. I couldn’t even feel my head or hands as I was trying to put shampoo in my hair. After waiting a couple days to see if the numb feeling went away, I decided I should probably take action and figure out what was going on. After many baffled doctors (and even my parents!) thought it was just a little freshman anxiety, it was my freshman roommate who came back from class one day and said “Sara, I was talking with a friend in class and I think you have MS.” I looked at her and said that I had no idea what that means. So what do you do when you want to find out more about something quickly? You google it. Next thing you know, I am balling at my desk because I had every single symptom that was listed on several sites. I identified with everything from the common ones (dizziness, numbness, tingling, weakness, balance problems, extreme fatigue) to the more rare ones like feeling like I had a blister on the back of my throat every time I swallowed. I also found I had Lhermitte’s sign which is an electrical sensation that runs down the back and into the limbs every time I would bend my head. I knew it was time to take action in order for me to start feeling better.  I then got in touch with my parents and told them that I was confident I had MS and needed to get an MRI. I’m not sure they really believed me (or wanted to believe me), but they graciously got me in touch with our family doctor (who was also a close family friend) and then my first MRI was scheduled.

After 3 MRI’s and a Visual evoked response or potential (VER or VEP), which is when the eyes are stimulated by looking at a test pattern, the doctors were able to see lesions in my spine that confirmed I indeed did have MS.