Denver's MS Walk is May 6, and I plan to walk the walk this year by myself - meaning without my wheelchair, my walker, my Bioness devices, my walking braces, or either of my walking sticks. It'll be just me out there this year. I'm really excited about this. I am also truly grateful for all the people who have supported me in the MS Walk, over so many years, in whatever way possible. And I'm asking again, will you support this cause once again, knowing that money raised through the MS Walk funds things like research into the medication that has helped me walk again? You now know, by seeing and reading my story, that lives are indeed changed through the funds raised by this walk. Here is the link to sponsor me in the walk this year: https://mssociety.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=225426
(Note: site is a bit tricky this year: Directions!! Click on the big orange “Donate” button, then choose an amount, or choose “OTHER” for a custom amount, then scroll past the “Payment” section and the credit card/PayPal boxes and fill everything that has a red asterisk (like name), then keep scrolling to the very bottom, and click on the box “Donate with credit card” – Please let me know if you have any questions!!)
If I were ranking my favorite years of my life, this past year would be one of my top years. After being told that I probably have MS when I was 20, after losing the ability to walk over the course of 18 years, who would have thought I would walk again? Who would have thought that in the 12 years in which my mobility has improved, that gradually I would stop using my wheelchair, my walker, etc.? All of those things were part of me continuing to live a happy and full life, and this is a new phase of life for me. It has been a year of firsts.
What exactly happened over the past few years to get me to this point? During Covid, physical therapy closed. Searching for some kind of replacement, I turned to swimming. I could sign up to swim at our local rec center, for 45 minutes, at 5am, when only 1 person was allowed per lane at a time. I noticed I could swim without needing a pull buoy to hold up my hips. I re-learned the flip turns I loved to do as a kid. I kept swimming. My core muscle strength improved exponentially.
Fast forward to this past October. I was doing a wellness challenge for work, where we logged exercise every day, for the whole month. I was walking using a hiking stick, but I tried to hold it in the air and started calling it my emergency brake instead of a hiking stick. My physical therapist (PT) remarked "I wonder if someday, (insert long pause), I just wonder.... if someday you will walk in here without any hiking sticks.... like in 6 months from now." Challenge accepted!! But why aim for 6 months when my next appointment was in just 2 months? He was a bit surprised when, 2 months later, I walked into my appointment with no sticks.
As I have learned to walk again, I have been amazed by my random discoveries, realizations, feelings, learnings, perceptions, etc.
- I've discovered that when I stand and balance on both feet with my eyes closed (one of my exercises), that focusing on the feeling on the bottoms of my feet allows me to stand without swaying too much.
- In general, I now feel where I am in space - I cannot adequately describe this except to say I didn't feel where I was in space until this past October.
- I've learned, when going up or down stairs, that my tendency to want or need to grab a railing is because I lean too far to the side with my body, instead of keeping my body straight and using my legs.
- The same thing can be said for walking - if my body goes too far to one side, I'm swaying to that side; if I work with this extra leaning when it happens, instead of fighting it, I'm generally able to correct the sway.
- A big perception I have had when walking is that successful walking means keeping my eyes focused ahead and not looking to the sides. If there are unexpected sounds when I am walking, my legs tend to tense up and my knees often lock. My knees also want to lock the further I walk. Walking, for me, means thinking of moving each leg forward in the same way, left and right, landing each foot on the ground in a way that allows continued forward movement while not allowing my body to lean too far forward. All of this takes a lot of brain power!!
It's not only walking that has changed for me this year. My mom and I went to our local mall where I successfully navigated an escalator. This was exciting - when Dave and I visited Lori in Boston, I had a lot of fun trying to find escalators.
I'm going to list other things from this past year that are new to me at the end of this - things I did for the first time in probably 30 years. Otherwise this entry might turn into a book. But it has been a great year. And I am truly grateful.
Again, here's the link to donate: https://mssociety.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=225426 (see above for directions)
Thanks for your support over many years!!
Peace and Love, Beth
Beth's Momentous Firsts:
- Escalators! First time up and down an escalator (first in Denver, then in Boston)
- Hawaii! First time walking on a beach, into and out of the water, without Bart
- Bye Bye Bart! First trip without Bart the walker (Boston)
- Bart! Currently has gone into retirement in our basement
- Track! 400, 800, mile on the outdoor track, no sticks
- Steps! Up/down 1, 2, 3, and 4 steps without touching a railing
- Home! Walking with and without holding cats, without leaning on walls, counters, no sticks
- Standing! With eyes closed, no sticks: 1 min; eyes open left foot only 30+ sec, right foot only 30 sec
- Choir! Standing for a choir concert
- Church! Processing into church with our church choir, walking up to read the lesson, no sticks
- Skiing! Off tether when stand up skiing, got on the lift myself, got off the lift with some help
- Hiking! Rocky Mountain National Park, Golden Gate State Park, Castle Rock, Bluffs
- Neighborhood! 1 mile, left sticks at home