Staying Active with MS

Usually when we hear “stay active” people are referring to some sort of exercise. But, that’s not what I’m implying when I say it, I like to keep my mind active.

And I don’t mean keep your mind active by stressing about what’s going on in your life or how your MS is affecting you that particular day. I mean, test your brain. Play some games online that really make you think; get  a crossword puzzle book; or you can play games on Facebook, like I do!

However,  if it’s one of those days where you just don’t even want to think too hard, because your head just can’t handle it, get lost in a book! That’s my favorite thing to do! I don’t sit there and worry about what’s going on in my life when I get lost in reading a book that I can really get into.

I can’t even describe how time goes by when I’m doing these things and how I don’t worry about how I’m doing with my MS, or anything else going on in my life. My brain is being active, but not to the point where it’s stressful, it’s relaxing. Something I really enjoy that we do at is every Friday Night at 8pm ET, we play “Trivia.” One of the chat hosts puts together an hours worth of trivia, and the whole chat room plays.  It’s nothing that is a “competition” or makes you think too hard, it’s really fun and gets you thinking!

Of course, it’s always good to stay physically active with MS… that’s a given, but I like to have a workout session with my brain more often than physical workouts! Needless to say, the only physical workout I can endure with out “over doing” or hurting myself is swimming. And I’m not just talking about hurting myself from doing too much, but I have made a fool of myself at the gym because I’m a walking accident!

So since it’s Summer time, take this time to enjoy and get your brain working, but in a fun way!

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Tana Campbell’s Race of Hope – Part 2

Written by Mark Campbell, Tana’s son

Read Part 1 of Tana Campbell’s Race of Hope

On June 1, 2013, we lined up in the back of the running pack surrounded by family and friends. We all wore the same shirts. There were 13 of us (five running and eight cheerleading), all wearing a bright orange shirt with a while ribbon on the chest surrounded by the phrase, “Fight On and Find the Cure! Multiple Sclerosis!” Prominently displayed on the back of the shirt was the MSAA logo along with some other local sponsors. We were ready, nervous and excited. We saw glances from other runners and spectators. But they weren’t puzzled or condescending looks. They were looks of astonishment and admiration. This was our first hint of just the type of day we were destined to have.

The race started and we were the last of over 750 runners to cross the starting line. Spectators were lined up on both sides of the runner’s chute. We heard their clapping and cheering once they recognized what we were doing. We crested the top of a small hill, turned a corner and were out of the sight of our family and friends. We would see them a couple more times during the race as they drove to a strategic location where we would pass at 3.5 miles and again at 7.5 miles.

Over the course of the next three hours we ran mostly on the Capital Area Greenway which follows a creek. It’s a well maintained and beautiful place to be. It never occurred to me just how much my mother would enjoy being on the Greenway. She never knew it existed and with limited mobility (she told me afterward) she never would have considered the option of experiencing it. The Greenway winds along a secluded area away from the traffic and noise of the city. There are interesting sights, numerous footbridges to negotiate and gorgeous scenery along the way. It is also a heavily wooded area that created a canvas of shade and allowed mom to keep cool throughout the race.

As we encountered the water stops along the route we heard more cheers and kind words from the volunteers handing out water and electrolyte drinks. Our route was an out-and-back course, which meant that runners who were in front of us at the start of the race were now coming back toward us. Most of the runners had no idea that we were even participating in the race because they never saw us at the starting line. I cannot count the number of times these runners clapped, cheered, smiled, yelled, waved, pumped their fists, gave us high fives, etc. It seemed like everyone who saw us wanted to acknowledge our participation. I can only imagine what my mother goes through in her mind when she gets out of the house and other people see her at the store or doctor’s office or in a restaurant. But this day, my mother was a rock star! And everyone wanted to salute her.

As we crested the final hill and made the final turn, there was such a sense of accomplishment for both of us. Mine was a physical accomplishment. Yeah, I ran a half marathon while pushing my mother in a wheelchair. But more importantly to me, my mother’s accomplishment was mental. She showed herself and others that she can enjoy life and overcome challenges. After the race was over and we were hanging out with our friends and family at the finish line, I remembered what a friend of mine who also has MS once told me. She reminds herself daily that she has MS, but MS doesn’t have her. The same is true for my mother….MS doesn’t have her.

If this is the only time we ever participate in a race together then I am very happy and will cherish this memory forever. But something tells me that this won’t be the last time. If my mom wants to do it again next weekend I will be there for her….we may be just a little slower though and I’m sure that is alright for both of us.

(FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT:  I did have to ask for help on that final hill from our running support team. It was a long, steep hill and my legs were exhausted. We estimate that they took turns pushing mom in her chair for about a half mile during the race.)

Read Part 3 of Tana Campbell’s Race of Hope



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Staying Active with MS

My exercising pursuits probably started at age one and a half when my foiled gymnastics routine failed to propel me out of the crib. Already I showed signs of being active and rambunctious and my “antics” did not stop despite stitches from my failed attempt. At age six my mother watched in horror as someone pointed to a young girl, her daughter, about to jump from the high diving board. Finally, at age eight she enrolled me in PAL (Police Athletic League), in an effort to allow me to channel my excess energy constructively.

I continued an active life style throughout my life, until I was diagnosed with MS.

In August of 2009 I was training for my first half marathon when I was diagnosed with RRMS. The diagnosis came as a shock to me because I was not only fit but maintained a healthy lifestyle.  The news, was a shock to me and I wasn’t sure how to cope.

After the diagnosis I shut everyone and everything from my life, including running and working out. I could not envision going for a run and collapsing from an MS episode. I truly had no idea what to expect but I had anticipated the worst of what could happen.  I couldn’t go to the gym and have my ego remind me of what I could no longer do.

As I struggled with the disease I became increasingly depressed. In the past, running would always assuage any crisis I had to face; I no longer had that outlet to release my depression and frustrations.  It was a catch 22 – if I went out for a run I could collapse (in my mind) and if I didn’t I would sink further into an abyss that I had created.

It took months for me to realize that I had hit a wall built not out of mortar but fear and indecision. MS had already proven to me that I would not have the same life that I had enjoyed in the past. So, why could I think that I could easily go back to my “old” form of exercising?   Reluctantly I had to give up starting off at the high diving board and had to wade into the kiddy pool instead.

And so as my frame of mind changed so did my temperament and condition. I started jogging slowly, almost at a walk, and much less distance than I was accustomed to. I had no delusions of grandeur, only of building up my courage and stamina at whatever pace I could manage at the time.

I also changed to a gym that had a pool.  Swimming was an activity that I had not done since I was a kid.  I wasn’t strong but I just wanted to get into the pool and swim a few laps at a time. The warmth of the water me gave me the impetus to stay in longer and achieve a little more each time. There was a familiar and safe emotional sensation that would flood my senses as the memories that I had as a kid, swimming in Puerto Rico and the JCC (Jewish Community Center), would come to the surface.

My legs finally started getting stronger and my attitude shifted to one of jubilance. I became more positive about the future and my life with MS. I realized how much I missed exercising. It had always been such an important part of my life. But more so, the endorphins that were released while I worked out had a positive impact on how I felt.

I also realized that it didn’t take much for me to fulfill the joy that exercising once brought me. It was as simple as exercising with light weights, going for a walk, or aerobic swimming.

I didn’t have to try to set out to break any type of record. I needed to listen to my body when it was telling me that it was as important to exercise my body muscles as it was the brain muscles. If I didn’t use them they would atrophy, as they were already doing. And, when my body was tired I needed to heed and do less.

My “baby step” routine continued until I was finally able to run my first half marathon last year and four months later completed an 817 mile hike through the Arizona Trail.

We all have different compositional make ups. Our MS symptoms are different and so we need to tailor our activities according to our capabilities. Any form of exercise, at our own pace, is instrumental to our physical and emotional and well being.

Please note: If you are looking to start any new exercise routine you should first consult with your physician.


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Aquatics and MS

As we begin the new year, many of us will make a pledge to get more fit this year. As we heard from our PT specialist anyone with MS needs enter into an exercise routine with the supervision of a trained professional. With that said I would like to share my experience this summer with adapted aquatics.

This past summer I was able to experience a unique opportunity of an adapted aquatics class at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. As Swim for MS is a major part of MSAA’s work to enhance the quality of life of everyone affected by MS, and adapted aquatics is often a go-to complimentary wellness option for individuals those living with the MS, I was asked to take part in a local adapted aquatics class at Shepherd Center. Throughout my career, I’ve often recommended aquatic exercise for anyone looking for an exercise or social activity, but ironically I had never taken part in it myself. So on a weekday morning in mid-August, I jumped into the pool with five MS patients and got to work on some really fun and useful exercise techniques.

The class I participated in was for those considered “ambulatory patients” while a separate class for non-ambulatory patients was offered afterward. With adapted aquatics, everyone gets an opportunity in the pool!

The class began with standard stretching, and then leg strides from one end of the pool to the other, on the shallow end of course. During these initial exercises, I was able to get to know some of my fellow classmates and learn a little bit about how they were diagnosed and just what their day–to-day experiences with MS are like.

The class then picked up as we began to use underwater step-stools to exercise our leg muscles, while also utilizing balance techniques, this last exercise was one of the more challenging! . This was the point where I struggled the most. Finally, in the third portion of the class, we used water weights to exercise both our triceps and biceps. It was neat to see how water actually creates greater tension when using the weights than the fairly weightless pieces of equipment create on their own. All the while, I was making great friends of my classmates, talking to them about MSAA and some of our services and helping encourage them at any point of struggle. The look of sheer accomplishment on each class member’s face when they were able to get through an exercise they felt difficult was really inspiring!

In all, this was quite the eye opening experience. The value of these kinds of resources are incalculable. If you happen to live near an area with an MS-specific aquatic exercise class, please make sure you take advantage of it! Beyond just the wellness quotient, you get a chance to make some really good friendships as well!

For more information about aquatic exercise in your area, call contact our Client Services Department at(800)-532-7667, extension 154 or email:

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The “Big Hike”

The idea of the “Big Hike” was mainly conceived to motivate others with MS and bring public awareness to the numerous individuals who are living with MS today. The “Big Hike” is 817 miles through the Arizona Trail, across the entire state from the border of Utah with Arizona to the border of Mexico. We are also hoping to raise $10,000 in support of the programs and services MSAA provides to the MS community.

I am very excited, nervous and passionate about this hike. I have never done anything that is so important and personal.  It will be a long journey through some desolate and rugged terrain during some of the hottest times of the year. This is an area inhabited by snakes, mountain lions and bears to name a few.  And hopefully, we will not have any experiences with any of these wonderful creatures.

Hiking is something that I love to do, and for me, an effective way of getting our message of hope to the 400,000 people in the United States that have MS.

We are all unique in our passions, hopes and aspirations.  My “Big Hike” is meant to inspire courage and resiliency in others.  Sometimes that means redirecting our goals to support our potential. To me, this journey I am taking is just as brave and honorable.

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