Multiple Sclerosis, The Vikings And Nordic Skiing

Frequently, the reaction that I get when people discover that I have MS is something like “But you’re so active!” or “I never would have guessed - you lead such a healthy life!” Without hearing my story, they don’t realize that one of the reasons I am religious about being so active is actually BECAUSE I have MS. 
Many times, when it’s 60 degrees and sunny and I’m out for a light jog I forget that I have MS – my body feels totally normal. However, things are a bit different when it’s 90 degrees and humid and the sun is pounding. I generally get extremely dizzy and off-balance and run like I’m drunk, and I focus all my mental energy on squinting and attempting to control my eyes so that I’m able to see the upcoming dips and rocks on the trails. I have immediate needs to go to the bathroom. When I’m ski racing and my body temperature rises with the added effort and stress, I find myself falling continuously and get a far off look in my eyes as they get more and more blurry.
When I tell certain people about these experiences, they ask why I don’t just pursue a different hobby when the weather gets too hot and humid, or why I don’t get off the trail and take a rest day when my eyes start to get blurry, or why I don’t just switch to running on a treadmill in an air conditioned room.  I tell them that I don’t want to give up the things I love to do – I will do everything I can to ensure that I keep running and biking and skiing as much as I can for as long as I can. Sometimes I bike with ice cubes lodged in my sports bra, or run with a cool bandana around my neck on shady trails.  Sometimes those adaptations work and sometimes they don’t – what is important to me is to keep going, and keep trying.
It’s hard for me to remain positive when my body doesn’t feel like it did when it was 20 degrees colder. It’s hard for me not to angrily stew when my body isn’t reacting like it did the previous day. It’s frustrating to get in a groove while running only to have to stop and go to the bathroom 5 times in 10 minutes. I hate falling off my mountain bike because I went over a rock that I wasn’t able to see. 
There are times when I am able to keep my mind in a positive state – times when I remember that I am out doing the activities I love. I pick myself up from a bike fall and get right back on the saddle, or genuinely smile at the confused passerby as I emerge from the bushes after stopping for an emergency bathroom stop.
But there are also times that my husband can tell you about where I dissolve into tears of frustration after falling for what feels like the millionth time, or when all I want to do is run in angry silence, desperately concentrating on focusing my eyes properly. That frustration and mental exercise – the fight to keep going and get out on the trails despite the failed experience yesterday, is often a harder battle for me than the actual MS symptoms. 
As many of you know, the MS symptoms that I experience today might not be the ones that I struggle with in a few months. Although I have found ways of coping specifically with poor balance and blurry vision, I know that in a few years it might be that I experience something different when by body gets too hot. If my natural response to this can be positive and filled with thoughts of how lucky I am to be out on skis with my best friends or how beautiful the trail run is instead of being consumed by thoughts of my body falling apart, then I will have won. Although a new MS symptom may attack my body or attempt to take over while I’m running or biking or skiing, if I can take it in stride and have a bad day and be back out there the next, then I will consider my life a raging success. 
Recently, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a documentary which tells the stories of seven people who have MS and have made (or continue to make) exercise and healthy living a major part of our lives. If you’re interested in hearing our stories, support this documentary, “Multiple Sclerosis, The Vikings And Nordic Skiing” by visiting our Kickstarter page to see some highlights and help to make it possible. I can guarantee that after seeing it you’ll be ready to get out and be active.  
Tags Healthy Living      2 Appreciate this

Katie Stalland, Nordic Skier