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Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

MEET TERI When were you diagnosed with MS and what was the first thing you did after you found out? I was diagnosed with MS in 2000. My diagnosis was kind of a relief for me. The neurologist said my vision loss was either MS or a brain tumor. I happily accepted MS but then I cried. We had a family member with MS who was paralyzed from the waist down and I thought "I'm doomed." The doctor didn't help things. He pointed out my extremely young age (21) and said I'd have an uphill battle. He sent me on my way, 3 month old baby in one hand and a prescription for Avonex and steroids in the other. I never filled those prescriptions.

What advice would you give to someone just finding out they have MS? Educate yourself. Gobble up all the information you can. Ask questions, connect with MS communities, listen to other people's battles before making any rush decisions about medication. I am not a fan of prescription medication, I never have been. I have had this disease now for 16 years. I've never once taken steroids or injection therapies.

What is something good that came out of your MS diagnosis? My whole personality and life evolved in the ten years after my diagnosis. I didn't know what to do at first. I kept having flares and ended up in stability braces and a walker. Something had to give. I quit smoking, lost some weight and learned how to fight flare ups with humor and keeping a positive attitude! And all of those things helped immensely. But it wasn't enough for me, I wanted to do more. So one day seven years ago I laced up a pair of old tennis shoes, headed outside and started to run. It was horrible! I wheezed, coughed and sputtered my way to the end of the block and stopped. I wanted my couch, a TV remote and a cheeseburger. But an internal battled started that day, a little spark in me ignited and I told myself "You can do better you lazy little sh*t", so I ran another two blocks but mentally I was unstoppable at that point. I spent the next year training and conditioning on the same three miles of streets near my house. I hit a 5K milestone, then a 7K and then a 10K! I ran sick, I ran injured, I ran in pain, I ran through tears, I ran through despair. But most importantly I ran through MS flare ups! I did a 10K with the entire left hand side of my body totally numb. I figured something out along the way, I am my own hero. There is healing strength buried in us all, you just have to work for it.

What is your morning routine? I wake up, drink a bottle of water, adorn myself in some funky running shoes/clothes and hit the road.

How has MS affected your daily life? I constantly have balance issues, dizzy spells and vertigo. My vision is terrible thanks to a few bouts of optic neuritis. I have pins and needles that shoot down my spine and limbs every time I bend my head down. Most of these things I have learned to ignore.

Can you remember your saddest memory of your life? Yep. The day my family member lost her battle with MS. She was 59 years old, and died on my birthday. I was devastated, and terrified.

Can you remember the happiest moment of your life? The birth of my daughters, Isabella and Mattie.

What is the greatest achievement you have done since being diagnosed and how were you able to achieve it? Distance running has absolutely been my greatest achievement. There was no easy route to accomplish this goal. I had to push myself harder than I ever had in my entire life. My favorite Japanese proverb says "Fall down seven times, stand up eight." That is exactly what I have done, and keep doing to this very day!

Any other thoughts you would like to share? My dream to run a marathon was cut short last fall when I was hospitalized with pancreatitis and gastritis, they think it was my MS flaring up and attacking my stomach lining. I spent two weeks in the hospital and another three months at home recovering. I was not able to run the entire time. But I eventually got back out on the trails. I could only power walk for several months but just recently started running again, my 1st mile back felt so good! I am currently walking 3-4 miles and running 2-3 miles every day. And I still refuse all MS therapies/steroids. I'm stubborn, but completely convinced that my running has kept me out of the wheelchair these past 16 years:)

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