Dragged into my MS diagnosis, but now jumping for a cure: Part 2

MS advocate Mike Parker gets the green light from his doctor

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by Mike Parker |

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Multiple Sclerosis News Today is chronicling MS advocate and podcaster Mike Parker’s journey leading up to a skydiving jump he’ll be making Oct. 29 to benefit the MS Society U.K. Learn more about Mike at mikesmsjourney.com. You can also donate to his fundraiser

Second in a series. Read part one.

As I shared in my last column, I have multiple sclerosis, and on Oct. 29, I’ll be skydiving to raise money for the MS Society U.K. Let’s talk about what I’m doing to prepare for this challenge and how I feel as I build up to the big day. But first, here’s how the idea came about.

The thought of skydiving hadn’t occurred to me until a few weeks ago, when my dad mentioned in passing that the MS Society U.K. was doing a fundraiser called the Halloween Big Leap. Without thinking, I leaped at the idea, exclaiming, “I’m doing it!” But at the time it didn’t click with me what that choice would mean.

I went online, signed up, then started making all the necessary inquiries. Lots of things would need to go in my favor for the jump to be a possibility. Some of those things — like mental and physical readiness — are within my power to influence. Signing up was only the first in a long chain of events.

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Readying my body

First, my doctor had to give me the OK. That meeting went well, and he gave me the green light. I suppose it makes sense that doctors would have to sign off on jumping out of airplanes.

At the landing point for the jump, I’ll need to be able to lift my legs so that my heels touch down first. To help me build strength there, I’ve been working out at the gym on a seated cross-trainer. My strength has improved a lot in just a couple weeks. I started by doing 12 minutes on the machine, and now I’m hitting 25, which to me is massive progress.

Additionally, I’m doing things like planks, situps, and upper-body work, all to get me to a point where I feel confident about making the jump.

Since starting at the gym, I’ve noticed that although the foot drop on my right side hasn’t changed, my stronger legs and focus on bodily function have helped me understand how to manage my limitations and improve upon them.

Readying my mind

I’ve been watching a few videos about what to expect from the jump. What’s surprising is that I’m not scared. In fact, the thought of being at 10,000 feet when I jump out of a plane is exhilarating. It seems like the chance of a lifetime and an opportunity to show myself and MS that no matter what the disease throws at me, I will fight back, push on, and find a way to battle through. I’m in control, not MS.

The jump is now less than two weeks away, and the closer the date gets, the more fixated I am on counting the days. Having something like this jump to focus on feels good. It’s sparked a fire in my belly, not only because of the fundraising for an incredible cause, but also because I get to look at new ways of challenging myself. I’ve needed it.

It’s also become clear to me that my mental health needs support. After my MS diagnosis, I don’t think I’d fully come to terms with it all. It was just too big to process. So I reached out for help. Although I didn’t have many therapy sessions, having that outlet helped me.

Between that and my embrace of this new challenge, I’m overflowing with passion and energy. In the next couple weeks, I believe my determination will only grow stronger.

These types of forward-looking goals are helping me personally, pushing me to find a new, stronger, and more positive version of myself.

Exercise, no matter how big or small the effort, is so helpful, and not only for its physical effects. Just having something to motivate me helps me mentally as well. Even if intensive exercise isn’t possible, finding other things to enjoy and focusing on goals — whether it’s a passion or something else — can introduce some semblance of order into the chaos of life with MS.

Next week: Mike falls in love with his mobility aids. 


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Jennifer Severn avatar

Jennifer Severn

Hi Mike,
You're going to love it.
I did a tandem jump three months before my diagnosis. I got drunk one night with a group of skydivers and they challenged me. Actually the challenge was to do it naked (but that's another story). Of course I accepted -- I was drunk! And have I dined out on that story ...
That was 25 years ago but I can still feel the exhilaration. Can't wait to hear how you go!
Jen

Reply
Ginny avatar

Ginny

Fantastic! Good luck with your training and your jump! Looking forward to a post-jump column from you. You got this!

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