How a Billboard Changed my Life
By David Lyons Published Nov 19, 2013
In the past weeks I have blogged about MS athletes from bodybuilders to triathletes. We have witnessed the extraordinary accomplishments of many with MS who have broken barriers, overcome odds and conquered sports that MSers have been told are not attainable with our disease.
These are all amazing feats and commendable triumphs. But there are many people with MS who do not strive to be champion bodybuilders, fitness competitors or triathletes. Their goal is to defeat MS the best way they can and meet this disease at the level they are at.
People such as Marie Freed who entered the MS Fitness Challenge (MSFC) despite her limitations and her fears. She pushed herself passed her comfort zone to take on the challenge of her lifetime, and she succeeded. She is extraordinary as are all our MS athletes. Her story is as important, relevant and amazing as any one of ours where a trophy is won or a sport is conquered.
This is Marie’s letter to our organization, and I am proud, as co-founder of the MSFC with my wife Kendra, to share this remarkable woman’s story with you.
Marie Freed in her own words:
Twelve weeks ago I was frustrated. I had hit a wall that I could not break down alone. During a recovery from an MS relapse, spurred by other health issues, I found myself once again sitting on the couch, watching TV. I had lost my sense of purpose, my drive to engage with my environment and had honestly given up on my wellness habits.
The constant voice in my head told me I was lazy, fat, unmotivated, undesirable, and sick. Depression set in along with a lack of concern for my physical appearance – why bother – MS is progressive, and it’s winning.
In an attempt to find motivation, I decided to establish a goal. Something to work toward, something that, in the past, had been doable and very rewarding, that had invigorated me. I registered for the Bike MS 150 MN and started the training program I’d used in 2009 in preparation for the 2010 ride. That meant getting off the couch and putting miles on my recumbent trike. It meant a commitment to a workout routine to build stamina and strength. Sounded good. Did it before. Just do it again, right?
The Struggle to Get Fit
After a several weeks, I struggled with breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, and lightheadedness. After seeing the doctor, explaining my concerns, and sharing my goal to participate in the ride, I was referred for a stress test, chest x-ray, blood work and pulmonary tests. All results were within normal limits, thankfully.
The doctor suggested I consider “intellectual pursuits” rather than unrealistic athletic goals that could just make me feel worse. I was prescribed two inhalers and a library card. So my trike was left hanging on the wall in the garage, and I just felt discouraged and full of self-doubt. That voice I mentioned earlier was saying, “Who do you think you are? What were you thinking? Your active days are done. It’s over.”
In that mind-set, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. Spring and summer were approaching. I anticipated no longer being able to participate in my passions – gardening, camping, hiking or riding my trike. Was I going to have to settle for a life without? I got MAD.
Refusing to Settle
I went back to the doctor, once again explaining my discouragement and restating my goals. The doctor suggested I refrain from participating in the Bike MS 150 and that I “work smarter not harder” – totally Greek to me. I was referred to physical therapy.
On the drive home, I saw this HUGE billboard with two big muscular, flexed arms and the letters MS, but I missed the rest. I kept driving thinking “No, MS and big muscles, I was seeing things.” So I turned around and pulled over to read the whole sign. MS Fitness Challenge Kick off, Fitness Evolution, Sartell, MN August 3, 2013. That image of those powerful arms holding the letters MS was inspiring! Maybe I could be arms and my MS could be separate; I could just hold MS but not be MS.
Joining the MS Fitness Challenge
After giving up on the Bike MS 150, I felt defeated, but the MSFC image lit a little flicker of possibility in me. Someone with those kind of muscles BELIEVES people with MS can pursue and achieve physical fitness, and if that someone BELIEVES, they must know how to get fit.
I rode my trike to the event that Saturday with my cane strapped on the frame, and signed up. I had no idea what a gift I was receiving or the blessings that would come into my life as a result of being part of the challenge. Being part of the MSFC is the BEST thing I’ve done to manage MS since diagnosis in 2008.
Before the MSFC, I had no self confidence. I was struggling with balance, walking, leg weakness and steadying myself with my cane. I did not have the financial resources for a gym membership or personal trainer, or I should say I did not make it a financial priority.
I had given up or given in. I didn’t have the knowledge to work through the perceived barriers to fitness. Most of all, I did not BELIEVE. Thank you everyone at MSFC and all the sponsors. You all have a very special place in my heart forever. I am so very fortunate, and I know it and live it with every breath, every moment, every day!
How the MSFC Changed my Life:
I traded in my cane for quad roller skates, and I skate every week with the team
I no longer wheeze upon exertion
I have been able to discontinue 2 medications
I can vaccuum
I can run 4 laps in a row, so far
I rarely take a nap
I am mentally sharper & alert
I enjoy social situations
I feel independent
I have lost weight, inches, body fat – not big numbers but I feel it!
I am stronger & participate in CrossFit at Fitness Evolution
I am no longer isolated but connected to others
I have the energy to do meal planning, shopping, cooking
I stick to my commitments
I hiked the Grand Canyon North and South Rim with my husband
I feel confident
I feel happy
I feel I have possibility
I got my drive back
I can’t wait for 2014 gardening and camping season
I love my trainer Brittney and Coach Brian
I am learning about nutrition and loving it
I am completing my Level 2 Healing Touch Certification this weekend
I am reconnecting with my volunteer work in Hospice Care
I love the challenge of CrossFit
My family and I are participating in the YMCA Wishbone 5K Thanksgiving day
I am training for the Honky Tonk Half Marathon in Wisconsin October 2014
My Love and Blessings to You All at MSFC!