MS Predictability: Am I sick or having an MS attack?

The more I study my body’s response to the world around me the more predictable I find my Multiple Sclerosis.

This month has been challenging. In preparation for a 10k solo and a 34k relay swim this summer I upped my training adding 6k swims on Saturday and 4 morning 3k swims bringing my total swim volume to 35-40k per week. This is topped up with 3 outrigger paddling sessions to help build my core strength and 2 spin sessions just for the heck of it.

I was careful to add the swims gradually as I did not want to exhaust or injure myself. I was also not sure how my body would respond to the strain. MS is one thing but being over 40 is a whole other story 🙂

Three weeks in and everything was going as scheduled. The 6k swims on Saturday were becoming easier and I had started the morning swims. I was a bit tired but not exhausted and there were no signs of MS creeping up.

Part way between week 3 and 4 I moved into a new position at work and with that came a new office location. Stressful? A wee bit – but nothing worth worrying about as I had prepared myself for the change.

Week 4, day 2: I swam in the morning (I love starting the day that way!), went to work and then headed down to the dock for a paddle. It was wet, windy, and cold but we are diehards so paddled anyway. Once done I headed to the pool for a double swim. About half way into my swim my legs and arms started to feel numb. I convinced myself it was because I had been out in the cold and finished the workout.

The next morning my arms and legs were still numb. I decided to not swim. I needed to recover. I was depressed and frightened. I was worried my MS was going to stop me from training at the level I need to for marathon swimming.

I went to work and then it hit me: I had a horrible nasty cold with one heck of an overactive nose.

YES! Relief. It was not my training that was aggravating my MS but rather my cold. And it all made sense: new job, new building, lots of new germs and paddling in the wind and rain – a lethal combination.

Lesson learned: uncomfortably numb does not mean I am having an MS attack. It usually means my body is busy fighting other stuff and doesn’t have the energy to deal with my MS. MS tingles now have new meaning and have become a way of predicting the onset of a cold, flu or other ailment.


6 Comments on “MS Predictability: Am I sick or having an MS attack?”

  1. Carol says:

    Good job in identifying the real culprit. I am learning, as with many things in my life, to ask, “What else could this mean?” I am beginning to understand that as you stated, being over 40 is a whole other story, and being over 50 is a WHOLE new chapter. 🙂 Especially training as hard as we do.

    You work hard, you achieve a great deal, you’re amazing,and thank you for sharing your thoughts and your journey. This means a great deal to me.

    Fondest regards,

  2. Michelle says:

    Good morning Susan – Thanks for sharing your experience with us. MS does give us warning signs we just need to be willing to listen! I have been having issues dealing with a unusually warm Florida winter and swimming in a heated pool. I have had to adjust my training level on a daily basis depending on how my body was feeling. At first I wasn’t listening too well and I ended up in bed two afternoons in a row due to pushing myself too hard in too warm conditions.
    I am also very conscious of MS telling me when I have eaten something that my body does not like. Having had great success with the MS Recovery Diet, I find I am in tune with any food reactions. I used to think temporary numbness, fatigue, burning pain was due to ‘over doing it’ – But now realize my MS is telling me that I had eaten something my body did not like. I just need to pay attention!!
    Thank you for continuing to be such an incredible inspiration!
    Good luck with your continued training!!

  3. Sue says:

    Susan you continue to inspire me!!!!! I love the information you share as you discover more and
    more how to read your body as a whole and not just the MS.
    Having MS for 24 years now and being over the big “55” has taught me over the years how to read my body… to stop and think about what is going on in my life… and what do I need to do
    to revise my schedule, diet or stressful situations so I can continue to enjoy my paddling.
    It takes practice to really learn how to read “yourself” and realize that If I “listen” to what my body is telling me to do I am capable of achieving goals I once thought were impossible.

    Thanks again for sharing Susan, you truly inspire me and I’m so blessed to have a friend like you !!

  4. francine lemaire says:


  5. grepomania says:

    Susan, being over 40 myself I can relate to this wholeheartedly! Getting to know our bodies again is a challange 🙂

  6. sarafr198 says:

    Hello everyone,
    I have a possible diagnosis of MS (I had my first symptoms almost 3 months ago)…This past week, I’ve had a cold (or maybe allergies…I can’t tell yet and still need to get an allergy test). My cold was pretty bad on Friday and I woke up with what I thought may be a new symptom (weak right leg and arm)…They were fine in a few hours but would feel uncomfortable again if I was sedentary too long. This past Saturday and Sunday I woke up with the same kind of feeling only it didn’t really get better after walking on it. I’m still getting over my cold but I think it’s in its last few days now. How long does it usually take you guys to get back to normal after having the flu/ cold? Thanks for all of your help!

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