About MSathlete

MSAthlete: one survivor’s paradox

Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an unpredictable and disabling disease, is often characterised by fatigue, motor weakness, spasticity, and poor balance. An athlete is a person who is trained in sports requiring stamina, physical strength and agility. I have MS and I am an athlete.

Diagnosed over fifteen years ago, I believed that minimizing stress levels – including physical stress – was the best way to manage my disease. I spent my first 10 years with MS doing nothing to help myself.

I was tired all the time and had built my career around working from home so I didn’t have to venture outside. I was hiding behind my disease.

Becoming unhealthier as each day lapsed I feared I would one day lose my independence. I had tingles up my spine daily, felt numbness in my toes and fingers and was constantly worried I would lose my vision. I was clearly in a downward spiral and had to do something.

I woke up one morning and decided to change two things in my life. The first was to become a vegan and the second was to begin exercising. Why a vegan? Simple, it was a quick energy gain. Energy I was not using to digest heavy foods, such as meat, would be available for exercise.

And my chosen form of exercise? Swimming. My biggest fear with exercise was the probability of overheating and exacerbating my MS. Since swimming meant exercising in a cool pool I hoped to minimize the chance of this happening. I started slowly, with a length or two at a time. I swam first thing in the morning, went home and napped for an hour and then worked until lunch. I headed back to the pool at noon and then again in the evening, always resting my body as much as it needed after each swim.

Within a two month period I managed to gain enough strength to swim 1 kilometre at each session. Eventually I joined a masters’ swim team and began competing. A few years later I hooked up with competitive dragon boat and outrigger crews, added weightlifting, spinning and other forms of exercise. I now work full-time outside of my home. My energy has increased, the constant state-of-tingles has stopped and although I know I may one day lose my vision again, I no longer live my life based on that fear.

I am now living with, rather than in fear of, my MS. I believe that exercising, which places a certain type of stress on my body, is how I will survive my disease. Although I know my chosen path is not for everyone with MS, I do hope to learn how others have used fitness and nutrition to battle their disease.

If you are someone using fitness and/or nutrition to battle your disease I encourage you to contact me so we can share your story with others.


13 Comments on “About MSathlete”

  1. Trisha Sims says:

    Hi Susan,

    Excellent site, did you start this website? I am most interested in hear more about it.
    Miss you and Ray, hope you are both doing well.

    MS Warriors

    • msathlete says:

      Hi Trisha

      Yep. I started em indeed. Hope to hear from you and a few other warriors as to your stories.

      Miss you too. Hope to see you on the dock soon.


  2. Natalie says:

    Hi Susan– Glad you found my page. Thanks for the comment. It’s so encouraging to read about others who have gone a holistic route and are still doing well. As you know, I’ve only been diagnosed for a little over a year — so to hear of your continued success after 15 years is very inspiring. I look forward to reading your blog! Take care. Natalie

  3. MJ says:

    You are such an inspiration or everyone, not just those with MS. I love your site.

    MJ 🙂

  4. Avila Rhodes says:

    Your story tells me what an amazing ‘warrior’ you are in so many ways. Hearing about your desire to change and overcome fear is such an inspiration to me. It is also a good reminder to all of us no matter what our situation in life.
    Thanks Susan for this & wish you much strength as you cross the strait this coming weekend!

  5. Susan wishing you and your team Calm Waters. Hope to see you at the finish.

    From across the pond


  6. Eleanor says:

    Thank you Susan for sharing your inspiring story!

  7. Thank you for your inspiration. I am a recent dx (one month ago), so I’m thirsty for hope. 20 years ago, I was in the Olympic Trials for swimming, so I’ve been dipping my toe back in the water. My diet has already changed (although I eat fish as well), and I’m trying to take control from the get go. I’ll follow you closely, hoping for your continued wellness and success.

    Thank you,

    (Still anonymous MS guy)

    • msathlete says:

      Wow! Good for you for taking the bull by the horns and finding your way with MS. So glad to hear you are in the water, not just for your MS but also because you are a ‘former’ swimmer. There is a meditative aspect to swimming the helps keep me at peace. I think this is something competitive swimmers understand well. I hope you find peace with MS and hope to hear from you again. You are welcome to email me at susan@msathlete.org if you wish to exchange learnings and ideas.

  8. I look forward to hearing more about ways that you manage your MS. Although I’m not an athlete, I use exercise to manage my MS. More recently, I have started following some of Dr. Wahl’s nutritional recommendations. Are you familiar with her work?

    • msathlete says:

      Hi Jane. That’s fantastic that you are using exercise to manage MS. I hope it is benefiting you as much me. I have heard of Dr. Wahl’s diet and know a few people with MS who are on it and doing well. I am a big fan of reducing inflamation and because of that avoid dairy. I have found that veganism works well for me. I think the key however is to find what works for you : )


  9. Ray Miller says:

    Hey Susan,

    You are doing it right, I was diagnosed almost 10 years ago now, and it was 7 years ago that I started learning to run. Since then, I have completed five Marathons, two Ironman’s, and many other shorter races. All while seeing my progression and condition improve as my fitness increased.

    I’ve not changed my diet yet except to cut out processed food. I think that is the next step in my journey.

    I’m not on Twitter much these days, but I’ll check in on you.

    Keep up the good work,

    Ray (RamillaTheRunna on Twitter)

  10. Michele says:

    you rock!

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