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31 Days of MS: MS Will Not Stop Me Running Marathons

31 Days of MS: MS Will Not Stop Me Running Marathons
Cheryl Hile and her husband, Brian. Photo courtesy of Michael Moberly

Day 9 of 31

This is Cheryl Hile’s story:

My husband jokes he knew I was a real runner when I asked him at a 10K, “Is the course accurate?” I was running fast and having fun. It was an event benefitting multiple sclerosis, a disease I knew nothing about, and chose only for the challenge. Little did I know, in 2006, I would myself be diagnosed with MS. 

Shortly after diagnosis, demyelination in my spine made it feel like I was going to trip while running. I actually fell twice during one race, finishing with bloody knees. I learned this was due to foot drop, a common MS symptom. I wanted to find ways to keep running but my neurologist told me to “lower my expectations.” 

I desperately searched for a solution. I found an awesome orthotist who customized a carbon-graphite ankle-foot orthosis. It holds my toes up so I no longer trip. This medical device keeps me running (56 marathons since diagnosis). Running is important to me because it’s the physical link to the days before MS and is a therapy for my depression

I work hard to maintain health; however, running is significantly more difficult now. I am much slower and move less fluidly. My ability is compromised by cervical and thoracic spine lesions. My right leg lifts only a few inches off the ground, and the entire limb feels numb and heavy. On bad days, it’s like moving through mud. Consequently, the effort is entirely on my body’s left side, and the right drags along. Nevertheless, my mantra is “I do what I can and I never give up.” This motivates me to push myself all the way to the finish line. 

In 2017, with my husband as my guide, I became the first person with MS to run seven marathons on seven continents. During the year-long adventure, I met amazing people with MS who are runners or want to become runners so I built an international support team called “Run A Myelin My Shoes.”

In 2020, we had 375 virtual teammates representing 42 states and 19 countries. Our mission is to show the world it is possible to remain active despite a disease that compromises mobility. We want to encourage others with MS to do what they can and never give up!

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

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  1. Charles Lumia says:

    Awesome story! What a beast!

    (Question if she reads this)

    How fast are you running? I used to run a bit but my balance issues have totally squashed that. The fastest I can go now is about 4 mph and that’s difficult.

  2. Hello,
    I wanted to share My Story:

    I am Cynthia * Founder of AARMS * Living with MS *Co-Chair of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Central Jersey Community Council * MSAA Member
    I am a middle-aged (maybe a little older) African-American (Black) woman, born and raised in New Jersey. After years of education, work, raising a wonderful daughter, enjoying a fantastic new husband, a great family and friends, I began preparing to “live the good life” and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Not to mention that, my first grandchild was on the way and I was ecstatic!
    When low and behold, I began to notice (a few years ago) that physical issues I experienced throughout the past 15 years resurfaced. But this time it was with a vengeance. After going from doctor to doctor, emergency rooms, Urgent Care facilities, having a series of MRIs done and so forth and so on, I was given  devastating news. I will never forget the words;  “You have more lesions on your brain than we can count, they’re active, many are old and that means that, you have Multiple Sclerosis.” This was close to two years ago. Needless to say, I almost hit the floor, but I’m so used to holding it together that I quickly composed myself. My first question was “why did it take such a long time to diagnose me with this disease?” The answer was “it is not typical for African-Americans to get this disease.” It crushed my plans and left me feeling hopeless.
    Not knowing how my family would take it, I felt I better get it together quickly and research what this disease is all about and how I could help myself. I began to list questions to ask my doctor, research how I could have possibly gotten this disease, what the medication subscribed was, how I could get help to understand the disease and why most of the people that  I found information about were only Caucasians? “Where are people that look like me with this disease” is what I thought? 
    Despite researching Multiple Sclerosis for more than a year, I found very little information that pertained to African-Americans (Black people) who are living with MS. That’s when I decided that I had gone through enough with this disease. Well, it took me close to a year to gather information. Even when I attended support groups, physical therapy, infusion appointments, volunteered, etc., I could count on one hand the number of African-Americans (Black people) that I encountered with MS. Not because we don’t get it, but because no one talks about it and we are too often, not included in conversations about MS, studies and/or clinical trials. Nor are we abreast of many educational tools to help us navigate through this disease.
    Based on my experience, I know that sometimes people with MS do not have enough energy to get out of bed and also I know that we definitely do not have enough energy to research information about MS. That’s why I decided to “take one for the team” and develop a place to find most of the resources that will help us; wegetmstoo.og . Also, I volunteer as an advocate to raise awareness of MS and  partner with organizations to secure donations for MS research and hopefully one day, a cure.
    Hopefully my story will inspire you to fight to get the help you need. Be well and keep fighting, keep pushing!

  3. Marybeth says:

    I also have right foot drop…it is frustrating that my leg doesn’t respond in correlation to my overall fitness. Hang tough!

  4. Janette Murphy says:

    I too was a runner before MS diagnosis. Managed to do one Half Marathon. Numerous falls, and a loss of my running technique has left me scared to run again. I would appreciate any advice on how to improve my clumsy running. I’d be happy to still do a 5km run if possible. My left leg throws itself out when I walk, so I don’t trust my balance.
    Any advice would be welcome.

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