How I Can Relate to Olympic Athletes as a Person With Multiple Sclerosis


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, Jäger, 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 it was probably one of the last times I’d ever go for a run.

Finding out I had multiple sclerosis (MS) 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 nauseous 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 an 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. Multiple sclerosis 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 Olympic hopefuls have overcome their own obstacles in life to attain greatness.

2. How much I miss playing racquetball or challenging myself with a grueling run.

Although the athletes weren’t battling MS to become Olympians, I see a powerful connection and can relate to their spirit and drive.

While gathering the energy to get out of bed, shower and have breakfast with my family is considered a win in my world now, I fight on each day to continue being active. Multiple sclerosis 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Runs have been replaced by walks.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 Olympics, which begin this week in Rio de Janeiro. 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 my MS, I hope to set a gold-medal example for my children.

Follow this journey on A Life Less Traveled.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


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