The Reluctant Athlete

In the months that it took for me to get my diagnosis, I became increasingly desperate for one. The 10 months that bridged November 2015 to September 2016 were a source of frustration and confusion. Why wasn't my leg working? Would I ever get feeling back in my left leg? Will I have to use a cane for my entire life? What is wrong with me? While steroid treatment and plasmapheresis treatment brought relief, I was still in search of a final answer. At the end of August, I got my answer. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The next chapter of my life officially began.
Since my diagnosis, I've been on a program of an aggressive course of treatment that has so far been very successful. I've chronicled the importance of rest and the amazing support that Kate has provided in this crucial part of our fight with MS. Conversations with my neurologist surfaced another important piece to this fight: exercise.
I don't like to exercise.
Not a groundbreaking statement, I know, particularly when you see the staggering statistics related to obesity and heart disease amongst my fellow Americans, but I have never been interested in exercise. While I ran track and cross country in high school, my interest in exercise soon waned. In college, I was much more interested in a few hours at a bar than a few hours in the gym. During this time of obnoxious youth, I proudly bragged about how much I didn’t exercise. When I gained more weight as an adult, I became delusional enough to join gyms (I'd say between membership fees and actual visits, I paid $87 per visit), but have never been able to commit to a consistent exercise routine. Ironically, what changed me was getting sick.
For the better part of a year, Tuesday nights have meant yoga. After a day teaching 100 tenth graders and a night of partnering with my wife to do homework and prepare dinner for my two young sons, I push myself to a yoga class. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., I push myself to get on a bike. During the summer, it was to ride 25 miles around my town, while during the school year, it’s to get at least half an hour in on a stationary bike in our bedroom before everyone gets up. I still don’t want to do it, but now, I make sure that I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say these things to make myself sound like some type of hero or world class athlete. Instead, I’m realizing that fighting my disease has forced me to change my life. I’ve gone from the lazy braggart to the reluctant athlete. There have been many times that having MS had made me feel helpless. My treatment and a commitment to exercise give me hope and a feeling that I am in control of my fight.
I set my goal high to participate in my first Bike MS event in New York City on October 21.

And I did it.
Stay tuned to read about my experience on the ride.
Tags Healthy Living      7 Appreciate this
| Reply

Frank McCaughey

Frank McCaughey is a husband, father and teacher in New York. He was diagnosed with MS in August 2016. In addition to his family and his career, Frank is a volunteer fireman and an avid sports fan.

Leave a Comment

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the community. Please note comments are moderated.


  • Jessica Seessel   Dec 4, 2018 7:17 PM
    Go Frank! And don't forget to mention nailing a 3-pointer in the staff/student bball game at school!
  • DavidSolymanH  Dec 14, 2018 3:07 PM
    I feel the same apathy towards exercise. It is a cruel mistress I must consort with but it must be done haha
  • Avatar
    lovereign  Dec 14, 2018 7:58 PM
    Your story is very inspiring Frank. Thank you so much for sharing it. It is strange how sometimes we start taking better care of ourselves after we get sick. I think it's because when we are well we take for granted the little things but also major things like our health. I know I did. Right before I got MS I had lost 85 lbs, but I was at a hefty 270 and I'm 5'8". I used to eat nothing but fast food, lots of pizza. I also didn't like to exercise but I would get out of breath just walking one block. That and seeing myself in the mirror naked was what moved me to start moving. The first month I would do a 10 minute stretch workout 5 days a week. I was so unhealthy and out of shape that it caused me to sweat in just those ten minutes of stretching. I felt pathetic but I never gave up. When I did get diagnosed 7/7/17 and I had major balance problems, dizziness, fatigue, etc., I still didn't give up. I also realized that I care more about my health now than I did before. I don't eat pizza anymore or pork. The only sugar going into my system is from fruits. Overall I make better choices. There are days I don't feel like exercising, but I try to do the Hip Hop Abs workout 3 days a week and I use apps on my phone to do squats, push-ups, and crunches two days a week. When I can and more specifically, when my body allows me to. It is important for those with MS to exercise. My physical therapist told me that we need to keep our muscles strong and in use so they don't atrophy. Of course you are in greater danger of muscle atrophy if your MS has advanced so much that you end up in a wheelchair or bedridden. So right now that I am able to walk, I'm going to walk. Since I am able to do exercise indoors with the fan on full blast, I am going to exercise. Because it will benefit me not just now but for years to come.
  • Jennette Dudding   Jan 3, 2019 11:36 AM
    Hi Frank,
    I appreciate your blog here. I was diagnosed in 2012. My first indication was trouble with my vision. My dr sent me for an MRI and they found it. Lol, I knew my results indicated something because the woman who performed my test was rather rude/grumpy/snippy to me before I got in the machine, but when I exited the test she was my ch, much nicer.
    So I went to a top-notch neurologist who emphatically said “you don’t have MS”. After a spinal fluid test it was determined that I most certainly and emphatically did indeed have Multiple Sclerosis. The Dr was far more concerned with his ego than the state of his patient whom he was so certain did not have this disease. He went charging out of his office going to a medicine cabinet where. He gave me FULL boxes of MS drugs (like 20 or 30 samples) and said choose. “Wait, what?”, at my next visit he actually got hung up on his denial that in his haste and with bruised ego he inadvertently gave me ENTIRE boxes of these drugs. He actually started arguing with me at which point my friend affirmed that he had indeed given me the lions share of the samples. He wasn’t too happy to have that pointed out to him.
    I think I’m telling you this story because there may very well be other newly diagnosed patients who have doctors that have magazine covers in picture frames adorning their waiting rooms singing their praises as Neorologist BUT if they’re unable to check their over inflated egos to treat you like the person you are, get a kinder Neorologist, YOU DESERVE KIND.
    And for you Frank, you’ve encouraged me. Since my diagnosis, I’ve had this image burned in my mind of thus miniature terrorists on a rampage through the electrical system in my body. So, I’ve spent the past almost 7 years surrendered to my anxiety and impending death. My anxiety caused me to sweat for SIX months straight. I couldn’t sleep, I questioned my own sanity on two VERY distinct occasions, my jaw literally started to stiffen to the point I thought it would lock. I also acquired an aversion to SWOWERING....that one I still haven’t overcome (although I do muddle through it and bath myself) but I still can’t figure out “why, of all things, showering”?
    I’ll try and remember to come back to update you as to why that phenomena happened....time will flush that little quandary out, right? 😁

    Keep on keeping on. Great job entering that race. You got me thinking....maybe I can 😁
  • Charles Scerbo   Jan 3, 2019 9:24 PM
    Very inspiring Frank!
    October 2016 at the age of 58 I too was diagnosed with RRMS.After seeing my physician for months regarding numbness in my feet,balance issues ,constant fatigue I was sent for an MRI which confirmed the diagnosis.Frankly I was devastated.My concerns were that I was not going to enjoy my future years and in fact suffer disabilities which would effect my quality of life.After I got over my initial shock which lasted several months my neurologist and I decided to initiate and continue on once weekly Avonex.Inititially I did not enjoy the self administered injections.Side effects which would last 24-36 hours were difficult to cope with.I would administer on Thursdays or Friday's so that I could continue to work.I have had two MRI's of the brain subsequent to the diagnosis and no new lesions have formed!! I have recently retired although still working causally .One important change that I have made is that I frequent the gym 4-5 days weekly.Like you,although athletic (golf ,cycle) I do not like to exercise.My current regimen is alternating days of 50 minute spin with 50 minutes synergy(active yoga).I must convey to you and everyone with MS of the importance of exercise .I feel a whole lot better not only physically but mentally and psychologically as well.MS is NOT a jail sentence. With proper nutrition,disease modifying medications ,exercise,peer and family support one can thrive with MS.In mid November my wife and I hiked a trail in beautiful Red Rock Canyon just outside Vegas.I plan to hike ,cycle and golf this spring and summer.With the right attitude and resources there is no reason why we cannot continue to enjoy life to the fullest!
  • Joe Haswell   Jan 3, 2019 9:43 PM
    As I started to read your story I though I need to tell you what I do. Ha!. I bike and Yoga also. Hope to do my 10th 150 mile ride this summer. Yes, bike MS. Keep going Frank! The meds are good but I like to think mind over matter. I have new limits on some things but overall life quality is good. Keep it up Frank!!Those kids need you!! And if your wife is as supportive as if sounds , you are going to be active as long as you want!’
  • janet higbie   Jan 4, 2019 12:43 AM
    Frank I am thrilled to read about your journey and MS.
    I am the care giver of our son. His started in 2000. The help we need are there people out in the world that are now essentially a quad and have lost significant brain .matter. This is our situation. It isn't that we didnt try for help. He failed rebif, copaxone, and a German product. Hi as too weak for Ocrevus. It was a disaster. Now we are to try aubugio. Momentum and most blogs are not in our situation.
  • Barbara Bien   Jan 4, 2019 2:15 PM
    I found your"reluctant athlete" story inspiring and, as my husband's MS caregiver and'pusher of exercise, I (and sometimes we) have found yoga important. His
    mobility is compromised so he is no longer active at our gym(nor at 82 am I), but
    on the strength of your article, about to push us both bad to the basement with our
    yoga mats, Thank you, and as a retired classroom teacher (over 30 years), I salute you!
  • Avatar
    Paula-Brown  Jan 5, 2019 5:37 PM
    Thanks, Frank!

    Luckily, I was a student athlete in college and I still love the game of basketball. Currently, I play in a senior league (50 +) and we competed in the Senior Olympics in 2017 and will do it again this year. I haven’t played in a few months because I was involved in an automobile accident, but I do continue to walk and stretch. I must admit, however, that staying fit is much more important to me today than in years past. Whatever works...just do it!
  • Autumn   Jan 22, 2019 12:03 PM
    Wow your story was so inspiring
    Thank you so much for sharig it
    I lost my brother to ms almost two years ago and I wish these forums were something that we both engaged in whilst he was alive. It’s amazing to know that until his dying day he was the biggest advocate of exercise and if you get a moment have a look on YouTube for - m.s and me defying the label- that was filmed two years before he passed away.

    Keep on fighting through guys
    People with m.s are so strong and inspirational and I hope one day a cure is found
  • Donna L. Wolpoff   Feb 21, 2020 12:34 AM
    I have had MS since I was 18 that I know of--raised 6 children-am 72 now-just started ballet lessons--do physical therapy twice a week--recommend exercise and physical therapy more than meds--it also depends on therapist for physical therapy to work and you-I also have 11 grandchildren to play with--my brain lepsons mess with my balance--I use a rollater out of house and grab bars in house to help myself