She Has MS and She Just Hiked 500 Miles

She Has MS and She Just Hiked 500 Miles
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MS_Wire_Ed_Tobias
Well, 460.75 miles (741.5 km), to be exact.

When I wrote about April Hester in late September, the headline on my column was “She Has MS and She’s Planning to Hike 500 Miles.” Well, she did it, hiking the Palmetto Trail from Walhalla, in the South Carolina mountains, to Awendaw, on the coast. With husband Bernie alongside, April completed the hike on Nov. 3. The couple had expected the hike to take 35 to 40 days. They did it in 34!

April with fellow MS warrior
April with Madeline, newly diagnosed with MS, who drove eight hours to hike a bit with April.
(Photo courtesy of Bernie Hester)

April was diagnosed with MS in 1996, just after she turned 20 years old. Like many of us, she has balance and fatigue issues. Her legs can become tired, her foot sometimes drops and she falls a lot. April used “trekking” poles for the hike, even when the trail took them through through the downtown sections of some towns. She also wore ankle braces.

Needless to say, the hike wasn’t easy. Over the first seven days, the Hesters covered almost 100 miles of mountains, with some sections that were almost vertical walls. Bernie Hester tells me, “April nearly lost two toenails but we pushed through all the pain.”

The further she goes the stronger she gets

April is on one DMD, Gilenya. She also tries to eat a lot of vegetables and fish. But, Bernie says, the hiking exercise is what really builds April’s strength:

Aril crosses a marsh
Tough going as April crosses a marsh.
(Photo courtesy of Bernie Hester)
I can say from watching the progression that, as hard as it was on her in the beginning, the more exercise she did the stronger she got. The transformation happened right in front of me and it was amazing to watch. The hardest part was getting started with all the falls, short distances, quick breaks needed and learning curve of how to do long distance with MS. But once we got it down, she just got stronger and stronger.”
That’s probably a good take-away for all of us who are able to do some sort of exercise, but who don’t. Day three, as Bernie told me, was “a tough day as we ascended to Sassafras Mountain, the highest peak in South Carolina. April had a lot of struggles and we only managed to cover nine miles that day. But she pushed hard so we could make the summit and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.”
Isn’t that the kind of effort and reward that those of us with MS should try to seek every day?

Why did she hike?

April hiked the trail to raise awareness about the fight against MS. She also hoped to raise money for the National MS Society. Unfortunately, she fell short of a lofty goal. There’s still an opportunity to make a donation, however, by clicking here.

You can also read Bernie’s day-by-day journal of the hike by clicking on April and Bernie’s Trail Journals web page.

(You’re invited to follow my personal blog at www.themswire.com)

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Diagnosed with MS at age 32 in 1980, Ed has written the “MS Wire” column for Multiple Sclerosis News Today since August 2016. He presents timely information on MS, blended with personal experiences. Before retiring from full-time work in 2012, Tobias spent more than four decades in broadcast and on-line newsrooms as a manager, reporter, and radio news anchor. He’s won several national broadcast awards. As an MS patient communicator, Ed consults with healthcare and social media companies. He’s the author of “We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS: A tool kit for people living with multiple sclerosis.” Ed and his wife split time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs and Florida’s Gulf Coast.
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Diagnosed with MS at age 32 in 1980, Ed has written the “MS Wire” column for Multiple Sclerosis News Today since August 2016. He presents timely information on MS, blended with personal experiences. Before retiring from full-time work in 2012, Tobias spent more than four decades in broadcast and on-line newsrooms as a manager, reporter, and radio news anchor. He’s won several national broadcast awards. As an MS patient communicator, Ed consults with healthcare and social media companies. He’s the author of “We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS: A tool kit for people living with multiple sclerosis.” Ed and his wife split time between the Washington, D.C. suburbs and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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10 comments

      • Travis Spradlin says:

        I’m so happy to read this today. We share a similar story and the same fight,despite the difference in points of origin. I recently made a goal to hike to see the beautiful sequoias in California. This is a momentous undertaking given my current state, but stories like yours I know will keep me motivated and aid me to fruition. Thank you. Semper fidelis.

  1. Ambrose Stapleton says:

    I just found your story. I so want to do a long distance hike. I haven’t seen any videos or blogs of people with MS doing these types of hikes until yours. I was loosing hope that it could be done.
    The article said you used ankle braces and just wondering what you use. I don’t fall much anymore but do get super fatigued and weak legs. Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. Marina Olhovsky-Mann says:

    I wanted to leave videos of me walking (nowhere near as long as Aptil’s, planning to build the stamina to hike Macchu Piccu 1 you’ve inspired me, April!) but there’s no place to post them here. I was Dx’d with RRMS in 2008, told that without DMds I could be in a wheelchair in 5 years – and I took none, only vitamins and natural supplements. Way to go, April, best wishes and thanks for posting!

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