I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and grew up like any typical kid in the city. I went to school, had good grades, played with my friends outside in the cold Alberta weather and even went on long weekend trips with my family. Life was peaceful and great, what could go wrong? After my high school graduation I was accepted into MacEwan University, where I began studying for my Nursing degree. It was during my second year in the Nursing program when things started to change. My legs for some odd reason felt weaker, and my fingers had this strange tingly sensation in them. Concerned about my physical well-being I went to see a doctor about the symptoms I was experiencing. Shockingly, the doctor did not take my symptoms seriously. I was told not to worry, that I was most likely suffering from either stress or depression.
As the days went by, my symptoms started to progress more rapidly. Getting out of bed became a battle, my arms began to feel stiff and rigid, my legs were consumed with involuntary muscle spasms and why was everything looking so blurry? Not only that, my concentration and focus faded while in school, having to re-read my notes over and over again for it to make any sense was intoxicatingly frustrating. Even walking down the stairs in my house was a struggle. I would hold on to the rail for dear life, afraid that I might slip and fall. The bottom finally caved in when I woke up one morning and could not see out of my right eye. It was then that the doctors paid serious attention to my symptoms. An MRI was ordered and the results were devastating. I had Multiple Sclerosis.
The news that I now had this incurable life-long disease sent me into a deep depression. Why did this happen to me? What will my future look like? Will there be a cure? With so many questions unanswered, I knew I had to take control. I had to take control of my health and control of my life. Doctors had prescribed medication to assist with limiting the progression of the disease, but did not assist me in helping me rebuild my physical ability to what it was before, that was now up to me. To help me in my recovery I got a membership at a local gym and invested to work with a personal trainer.
It was after I began working with a personal trainer that I learned the different types of exercises that would manage and even help improve my muscle weakness, cognitive ability, mood and mitigate fatigue. Exercises like strength training, resistance training and aerobics are very beneficial to those living with MS. However, the challenge is that the equipment has to be modified so that individuals with MS can use them. Most facilities do not set up the equipment for individuals facing such challenges. Luckily, my trainer modified my work-outs like doing push-ups on an incline. While traditional push ups work your chest, arms, and shoulders, incline pushups take some of the pressure off your arms and shoulders to give you a solid chest workout. Also doing lunges with the use of TRX bands adds much help with support and balance. TRX bands are perfect for low-impact training, rehabilitation, stretching and mobility, these lightweight and easily packable bands will help you push and pull your way through anything. After just a few weeks I saw drastic changes in my physical and mental well being. My legs became stronger and more flexible, my balance got better and my fatigue improved greatly. Even having the focus and concentration to write this article is a testament to that.
Having gained knowledge from working with my trainer, and the exposure I have had to the proper way of managing my MS through physical activity I felt it was necessary to share what I have learned with others suffering from this disease. In my effort to both get the word out and establish a shared safe space for what I now know, I created a platform that promotes the physical well being for people with MS called, “MS on the Move!” I post up workout videos on my Instagram (fevenn7), and Blogpage (msonthemove.blogspot.ca) so people with MS can utilize what I’ve learned and workout from home, modifying routines to their own comfort level. Especially now during Covid-19, those most vulnerable are stuck at home and need to find ways to stay active, safely and securely.
Reflecting on my past hardships and achievements, I have come to realize that MS is not a death sentence. My life is not over, in fact it is filled with new opportunities where I am able to connect with others experiencing MS. I made a decision once to study Nursing so that I may be able to help others. Today, although the trajectory of my life has shifted, I am still able to use my experience to help others in a unique and personal way that I never could in my community. Living with Multiple Sclerosis has empowered and motivated me to not only overcome the obstacles but also to extend beyond the limits of the disease.
By Feven Fessahye