31 Days of MS: Exercise helps me keep MS on its toes

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by BioNews Staff |

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A woman stands outside wearing a brown cardigan with red, yellow, and blue patterns. She's leaning against a stone wall in a neighborhood, with her right hand bracing herself and her left hand on her hip.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Ratcliff

Day 19 of 31

This is Ashley Ratcliff’s story:

Fatigued, sore, and tingling, yet determined. Every Friday I fight the urge to surrender to my ever-long list of to-dos and the voice in my head telling me to sit this one out. Instead, I press on and go work out with my personal trainer.

It’s not out of vanity, and I’m far from being a glutton for punishment. I exercise out of necessity. I must move my body to maintain my health and well-being in spite of multiple sclerosis (MS).

I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS on March 9, 2018. It started with numbness and tingling in my left foot that quickly progressed into foot drop. My foot would plop down with every step, causing me to walk with a limp.

I had to relearn how to walk properly. Imagine that: The girl who ran bases with abandon during softball games in high school, and who danced like no one was watching throughout college and well into adulthood, had to teach her foot to move the way it was intended. It wasn’t until life threw me this MS-shaped curveball that I even began to view physical movement as a priority.

When I “graduated” from physical therapy, my gait had improved, but I still had to work on regaining complete strength in my foot. I needed to be under the care of a professional who could monitor my progress and safely push me to take on more.

One day, when using the elliptical at my neighborhood gym, I quickly obliged when a personal trainer approached me with a sales pitch to get a full-body scan and work out with him.

Weeks became months. Months became years. Eventually, as I began to see results, the focus shifted from mending my foot to becoming healthier. With every burpee, mountain climber, plank, crunch, and kettlebell swing, I got stronger. And I continue to get stronger.

Yes, some days are really challenging. Yes, I often would much rather be lounging at home with my fiance, Daryl, and our fur baby, Ryley. But that would be taking the easy way out.

Each time I show up for myself, I like to think that I’m keeping MS on its toes. I’m not letting MS win — I’m putting up one heck of a fight. I’ve realized that exercise is a form of therapy. It provides clarity and puts me at peace.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today’s 31 Days of MS campaign will publish one story per day for MS Awareness Month in March. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofMS, or read the full series.