My MS Story and Why I Swim

Last updated: February 2016

Not long after my diagnosis in 2006, I made my job became to stay healthy and resist the challenges I faced with MS. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. The past 7 years is sprinkled with victories and defeats. Mostly, I've had to adapt my world, best I can, adjust my expectations, and redefine myself. I used to be good at everything, be it physical/athletic or intellectual/cognitive. And, I was the luckiest guy you'd ever see. Flip a coin and I win 7/10 - every time! I was a Little League phenom, a high school and college letterman, the guy in the dorm who could juggle 3 apples while simultaneously eating them to the core. I got my Master's degree in 10 months with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Child's play! Later as an adult: college professor. Later still, I started my own business and won many performance awards in my industry. The first 40 years of my life was easy and I was successful in almost every respect.

That was then, this is now.

On 6/6/06 I was diagnosed with MS and all changed changed. Before then actually. I started noticing that I was no longer superman. My neurologist is great, but his hands are kinda tied because I have a type of MS that there's just not a lot out there for: Primary Progressive MS. There are therapies and medication for other types of MS, but not much for my type! So, it's mostly up to me to find things that work. For a few years I was basically depressed and moped around the house, no longer able to work. Within a few years, I was back to my old hobby of working out at the gym and got a little more active. But the biggest change I've seen is in the past few months with my involvement in MY SWIM for MS.

I used to be an excellent swimmer but could no longer make my arms and legs cooperate.At the time I was putting in a few laps a week in the "walking lane" at a local fitness center. I read about the MS event, noticed others swimming laps beside me and said to myself, "baaah! I can do that - I want to do that!", and I jumped into the deep end and took off. Well, almost. I thrashed about and created quite a stir, finally making it back to the edge. I got out of the water (with help) and vowed to participate in that SWIM for MS event. I pledged 30 laps in thirty days and posted it on Facebook so I would feel committed - people would ask me, "how's it goin'?" I figured if I could learn to swim 1 lap, I could do it each day for 30 days, right? Surely I can learn to swim ONE LAP!

Making a public proclamation committed me to it. For a month I did not even try to swim. I lifted, rode a stationary bike, started yoga, and walked in the pool and watched others swim. I learned some things. The words of my old little league coach came back to me, "watch those who do it well." My day will come, I thought to myself. It finally came. Last week I swam 10 laps. A long way to go, bit I CAN SWIM! The health benefits of training and swimming are far better than anything else I've experienced since my diagnosis. And it's not just related to my "fitness". I have people ask me every day about it. They think it's great how I'm fighting. It's very motivating when compared to the years of moping around the house feeling sorry for myself and accepting what I thought was an inevitable downward spiral.

SO, WHY DO I SWIM? I think you get it. Will I ever stop swimming? No way! Does it make me want to take on additional challenges related to MS? Oh, you bet! Someday I hope to share those with you.

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