MS is a challenge many around us face- this is a motivating story about a MS member who doesn't let it MS define her!
Bay of Plenty
It amazes me how you can think you have it sorted until you look back to a point in your life and realise you have come so much further and learnt so much more.
I wrote an article ten years ago for the Auckland MS Society about my situation. I had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis two years prior. A keen and competitive triathlete, I was still competing, and thought I had my fate sorted – it could not beat me, or stop me.
Well I had barely begun my journey. I had to accept that I couldn’t realistically continue with the training that competing demanded. My legs were literally my weak link, it was indescribably frustrating. My body had all the energy and drive in the world but the signal wouldn’t travel from the brain to the leg muscles. They eventually became uncoordinated and weak on my runs. To think I had even accomplished the Coast to Coast run – the most gruelling five hours!!
An exciting job opportunity in Queenstown meant I could step away from the triathlon scene and embark on a completely different adventure. I also stepped outside my career comfort zone (radiography), did some adventure guiding for the summer. It was a fantastic experience; mainly day walks and my legs held up until about hour four into it when they’d go shaky and weak, but no-one noticed… Getting out into the mountains and seeing the hidden gems of this amazingly beautiful country; I loved forgetting my own shortcomings and focusing on encouraging these guys and girls when things got tough. These days were unforgettable.
Back to radiography and the real world, life's next chapter took me to Melbourne where I lived for 7 years before re-realising my passionate kiwi roots. And with the Covid pandemic unfolding - I needed to come home.
The main lesson learned while I was away is that MS and stress do not mix well. Symptoms reappear, and some days getting out of bed seems quite impossible.
So now, at home in the Bay with family nearby and friends too - it is a beautiful place! Great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors – the bush, the beach, the water. As far as my exercise goes, well I can only run for a few wobbly step… But I can truthfully say I don’t mind this, there are other things to life and other much more fun ways to achieve fitness. The greatest thing is to have come to this realisation. One must be careful of attributes that drive determination and stubbornness! Nowadays I LOVE my swimming and count my lucky stars every day that my arms are not affected, strangely enough.
During this journey I’ve learnt lots and taught myself a lot. To rely more on my support network – my awesome family (psychologists, close friends too) – and that this is ok. They are what help me through low times and without which I’d be struggling big time. Just as important was joining the MS Society here. Their peer support is invaluable - knowing I’m not on this crazy journey alone!
Multiple Sclerosis stopped me competing in triathlons a few years back, something I was so passionate about that it ruled my life back then. But it has opened doors to some amazing opportunities and experiences that I’m so much stronger, potentially happier because of.
In giving advice to anyone dealing with similar such challenges: it is important to be flexible, so you can be ready to take the punches. Often symptoms come on unpredictably. Not saying that you have to succumb to it, just TRY not to let it get you down or alter your attitude. Life is tough sometimes but be strong, stay positive. Distract yourself.. and sometimes that challenge becomes a blessing :)
That is my story. And now a friend has encouraged me to participate in this challenging ocean swim event:
I will do it to help raise awareness around MS and funds for the invaluable BOP Multiple Sclerosis Society!
We are a non-profit organisation formed to provide ongoing support, education and advocacy for people with Multiple Sclerosis. It also aims to educate the general public, employers and health professionals about these diseases.
The Funds will go towards the MS Society. We aim to reach $1000. This will be a great accomplishment for Joni.