Going for Gold

It was a beautiful spring day. Crisp air and clear skies accompanied me as I jogged through our neighborhood. 

Oftentimes, I juggled work ideas in my head during my runs and this one was probably no different.

But when it happened, I was actually pondering whether I should take our dog, J├Ąger, with me on a run the next day. I even remember the exact house I was in front of when my left leg gave out.

The moment will live with me forever.

Whooooosh

I nearly collapsed on the ground. Somehow, I was able to keep my balance. I paused momentarily and then started running again.

Whooooosh

It happened again. I knew something wasn’t right. I walked the rest of the way home…and while I didn’t know it at the time, it was probably one of the last times I’d ever go for a run.

Finding out I had multiple sclerosis did not happen overnight. It was a long and winding road, with plenty of potholes and even a few wrong turns.

Blurred vision, odd sensations, drained energy, stumped doctors and endless medical tests all served as warning signs that something just wasn’t right with my health.

Nearly collapsing on a run was another flashpoint during the journey to my diagnosis.

There were other similar moments…being unable to keep my balance while playing basketball with friends at work. Feeling nauseas while in the confines of a racquetball court. Slipping, repeatedly, on steps…at home, work or even while out to dinner with my family.

Exercising was a very important part of my life. It started as a goal to lose the college weight, but eventually I was hooked on living an active lifestyle.  MS has proven to be an impediment to living a fit and healthy life.

The other day, though, as I watched the Olympic Trials, I was reminded of two things:
  1. So many of the Olympic hopefuls have overcome their own obstacles in life to attain greatness; and
  2. How much I miss playing racquetball or challenging myself with a grueling run.
Although they weren’t battling MS to become Olympians, I see a powerful connection with their spirit and drive.

Sadly, gathering the energy to get out of bed, shower and have breakfast with my family is considered a win in my world now.

Still, I fight on each day to continue being active. MS has meant a change, not an end to that lifestyle.

Runs have been replaced by walks. Instead of racquetball, I swim. When going on a family hike, I bring a cane to help me along. And since the heat is no friend of MS, I plan my activities accordingly…before the sun rises, after it sets, in the shade, or indoors.

I look forward to watching the upcoming Olympics in Rio. I never had Olympic aspirations, but I had dreams of being an active partner with my wife and setting a positive example of physical fitness for my children. 

MS created a detour and the visions I had of my wife greeting me with pride as I finish a 10k or coaching one of my children’s teams were not meant to be.

But that hasn’t stopped me from striving to be the best version of myself each and every day; eating well, getting creative with exercise and greeting each day with the smile it deserves. And in the process, in spite of MS, I hope to set a Gold Medal example for my children.
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Michael

Michael Wentink, Blogger

In 2008, Michael Wentink was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At 31, he was a new father, a recent MBA graduate and a Director at a Fortune 500 company. MS altered this path and after an early retirement, Michael is now navigating life on a road less traveled. A native of Northern Virginia, Michael currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and two young children. Read about his journey with multiple sclerosis at mjwentink.com and follow him on Twitter.

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    22 Comments

  • Ann Johnson   Aug 3, 2016 2:05 PM
    This rang so many bells with me. I was a gymnastics coach and fitness instructor before having to take ill health retirement. I was obsessesed with fitness. The worst thing now is seeing people who don't care about fitness able to do simple things that I can't. Getting dressed without help is like climbing a mountain. I hate having to be the helped not the helper.
  • Avatar
    kcecchi  Aug 3, 2016 2:48 PM
    As an ex-All-American gymnast, I was used to my body doing what I wanted it to do. I started teaching gymnastics and fitness classes at 14. For the past 9 years(I am now 47) since I was diagnosed with MS, it's been a daily struggle. I exercise when my body cooperates, eat well, and maintain a positive attitude. Being active, physically and cognitively, helps me on many levels.
  • Joan   Aug 3, 2016 5:08 PM
    Don't replace your dreams. I was diagnosed 20 years ago & keep finding new sources of inspiration, like Sonia Trejo's webclass (soniatrejo.com) that I Listened to this just this morning. Check it out!
  • SmartyPants   Aug 3, 2016 6:18 PM
    Yes the day things start going wrong is a day we all remember. But for me finding out i had MS was finally when i found out just what was going on with me. I had been misdiagnosed for years, so when i finally found out what was causing me to keep falling, it was actually a relief. Staying active is the most important thing i do for my body, and swimming is my way. I can swim for an hour straight through doing laps and it doesn't make me sore, and if i stumble i just fall in the water. Trying swimming, and you won't regret it, sure running was your thing but swimming can because your new thing. I ride my indoor incumbent bike twice a day for 45 min or 8.2 miles twice a day and swim twice a week, i am in the best shape i have ever been in and my legs are stronger for it. Keep on moving, and if you need to read about moving "Beyond MS" a book by Rosealie Richards, it will uplift you and give you so many insights in adapting your unique type of MS so you can live a full life.
  • SmartyPants   Aug 3, 2016 6:18 PM
    Yes the day things start going wrong is a day we all remember. But for me finding out i had MS was finally when i found out just what was going on with me. I had been misdiagnosed for years, so when i finally found out what was causing me to keep falling, it was actually a relief. Staying active is the most important thing i do for my body, and swimming is my way. I can swim for an hour straight through doing laps and it doesn't make me sore, and if i stumble i just fall in the water. Trying swimming, and you won't regret it, sure running was your thing but swimming can because your new thing. I ride my indoor incumbent bike twice a day for 45 min or 8.2 miles twice a day and swim twice a week, i am in the best shape i have ever been in and my legs are stronger for it. Keep on moving, and if you need to read about moving "Beyond MS" a book by Rosealie Richards, it will uplift you and give you so many insights in adapting your unique type of MS so you can live a full life.
  • SmartyPants   Aug 3, 2016 6:18 PM
    Yes the day things start going wrong is a day we all remember. But for me finding out i had MS was finally when i found out just what was going on with me. I had been misdiagnosed for years, so when i finally found out what was causing me to keep falling, it was actually a relief. Staying active is the most important thing i do for my body, and swimming is my way. I can swim for an hour straight through doing laps and it doesn't make me sore, and if i stumble i just fall in the water. Trying swimming, and you won't regret it, sure running was your thing but swimming can because your new thing. I ride my indoor incumbent bike twice a day for 45 min or 8.2 miles twice a day and swim twice a week, i am in the best shape i have ever been in and my legs are stronger for it. Keep on moving, and if you need to read about moving "Beyond MS" a book by Rosealie Richards, it will uplift you and give you so many insights in adapting your unique type of MS so you can live a full life.
  • Avatar
    joannmaxwell  Aug 4, 2016 8:01 AM
    I am so with you on this!! I was a swimmer. I can still swim, but i am hampered by right side weakness. I can no longer perform a whip kick. I used to love to walk--3-4 miles each day. Now I stumble around with a cane! MS is an unrelenting thief.
  • Terry   Aug 5, 2016 4:30 PM
    Thank you for this inspiring article. I am not an athlete but this article reminds me to keep as active as I can. The losses for those who were true athletes must be very difficult . I will be watching the Olympics from a different country, but I am going to be inspired by you all. Swimming was my favourite activity as a child: I am going to try again this week.
  • Terry   Aug 5, 2016 4:30 PM
    Thank you for this inspiring article. I am not an athlete but this article reminds me to keep as active as I can. The losses for those who were true athletes must be very difficult . I will be watching the Olympics from a different country, but I am going to be inspired by you all. Swimming was my favourite activity as a child: I am going to try again this week.
  • Terry   Aug 5, 2016 4:30 PM
    Thank you for this inspiring article. I am not an athlete but this article reminds me to keep as active as I can. The losses for those who were true athletes must be very difficult . I will be watching the Olympics from a different country, but I am going to be inspired by you all. Swimming was my favourite activity as a child: I am going to try again this week.
  • Terry   Aug 5, 2016 4:30 PM
    Thank you for this inspiring article. I am not an athlete but this article reminds me to keep as active as I can. The losses for those who were true athletes must be very difficult . I will be watching the Olympics from a different country, but I am going to be inspired by you all. Swimming was my favourite activity as a child: I am going to try again this week.
  • Terry   Aug 5, 2016 4:30 PM
    Thank you for this inspiring article. I am not an athlete but this article reminds me to keep as active as I can. The losses for those who were true athletes must be very difficult . I will be watching the Olympics from a different country, but I am going to be inspired by you all. Swimming was my favourite activity as a child: I am going to try again this week.
  • msspouse2016  Aug 6, 2016 6:16 PM
    It's to nice to read your story. Sometimes I feel as though I'm not trying heard enough to be active anymore. Reading that someone who was very active once as well and now has to improvise their activity makes me feel validated. While I don't have MS, my wife does, I have another autoimmune and we share similar activity levels as far as fatigue and pain go. I joined this site to help find people who could guide me to help us stay active. Thank you for sharing your story, it is exactly how I feel now also. And now I'm coming to understand that we must plan our days around how to effectively use our energy level for that particular day but those will get better with increased activity.
  • Mare   Aug 7, 2016 1:53 PM
    Your article was precise to the point and so well written. I know it could have been much longer since being misdiagnosed for years, as I was, would be a very long, long story. Oddly, when you said getting out of bed and having a shower is a win for you, meant a lot to me since I can feel exactly the same on many days.
    It reminded me that I have to be happy about what I can do and not wonder what is wrong with me, when having a shower seems like it would take too much energy. It's like it is not such a big deal, but in a way , silently , I can't get a grasp on how I feel like I have to force myself to simple things. I keep it to myself though.
    Thank you for your story.
  • Kay Inmon   Aug 9, 2016 7:11 PM
    I liked you story. My first symptom was double vision plus, I was pooping in my pants. I had trouble controlling it. I was diagnosed in 1994 and I have been in a wheelchair for about 15 years. I can still stand up but I can't walk. I make things like dreamcatchers and signs on wood. I live in a nursing home because I have to have care. I was born in El Paso, but now I liven Austin. I am glad I came. I've been in Austin for 12years now.
    Take Care,
    Kay
  • Suzette Byrne   Aug 10, 2016 11:58 AM
    Great article. Thanks for sharing. I was a active runner also. I still do a little running. I want to be an example for my kids to stay strong and not to give up!!! Thanks.
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  • Avatar
    gjlisGLORIA  Aug 25, 2016 10:22 AM
    Dear Michael:
    The words that you wrote were exactly the words I needed at this time: your struggles with getting out of bed in the morning reminded me that it is not 'laziness' in me but the condition in my body: and your attitude of striving to do and to be your best encourages me to no end! Your attitude woke me up! Rather than resigning to the throws of a 'handicap' I am inspired to be my own kind of olympian - to not trudge on but take on the challenge and make something wonderful out of it.
    Thank you for the inspiration. And thank you for, hee, hee, getting me out of bed this morning!
  • Sandra   Sep 10, 2016 4:50 AM
    Great article. I really appreciate all your efforts. Thank you so much for sharing this information with all of us. Thank you for your story. Take care. Sandra
  • kim   Sep 15, 2016 7:52 PM
    I'm. From a family if ms.so I knew I had it For years. Was working. With it till I wrecked. Car foot wouldn't. Move ended up with a great Dr. Now I'm on trecfidra and a pill to help with walking after 3 mounth. Of not walking and gaining. 30 pounds I'm now walking and jogging a little just one step. At a timr
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