I woke up feeling determined. Today was the day, a day months in the making. I was going to do something I haven’t been able to since May. Arriving at the lake this morning, I wrapped up in my scarf to guard against the strong winds and took a deep breath before beginning. The mission: walking one mile, all at once.
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I marvel when I read MS blogs where the writer is training for a marathon or a Cross Fit competition. How? I wonder. There was a time when I found reading about their accomplishments discouraging, but I also read blogs written by people with far greater MS challenges than the ones I’ve encountered so far. The point is, you can’t compare your progress with that of others; the only appropriate measure is against yourself.
Half a year ago, before my diagnosis, I was doing about 2 miles on my daily walk, longer on the weekends. After my spinal tap in May, I had my first major relapse that affected my physical ability, severely limiting my use of the right side of my body, my limbs suddenly leaden, useless. It took a long time to get back into my walking routine, and it required great effort just to complete half a mile because of leg numbness. One of my biggest fears is of falling, and that was true even before I had MS, though now it would be less of an accident and more a failure to be appropriately cautious. And I’d have to answer “yes” when the neurologist asks if I’ve fallen since my last visit, something I hope never to have to do, so I usually listen to my legs when they cry uncle.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been pushing to three-quarters of a mile on days when my legs feel steady enough to keep going. There are many other steps in my day at work and doing regular activities, but it’s important for me to get the most out of the time I dedicate to walking for exercise. I don’t even take Maggie anymore because she slows me down too much, so I have to endure her sad puppy eyes when I tie up my walking shoes and leave in the morning. Alvaro gives her a spin each afternoon so she doesn’t miss out. Sometimes I join them for a second walk, strolling this time for pleasure, taking in the day, talking with my husband.
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I have the energy and endurance to walk several miles at a time. Since that last relapse, though, my legs just can’t keep up. They lose a little more feeling with each step, and when I fail to pay attention, my right foot will eventually drag, which threatens to trip me up. I have to think about bringing my toes up with each step out. There are benches scattered where I walk, fortunately, so if I need to rest, I can. I didn’t need to do that today, though, which made completing the first mile in months that much sweeter. The trail where I walk is just over a half of a mile around, and the first lap went as it usually does, my legs tingling and slightly unsteady at the end. Beginning the second lap took more courage and a leap of faith. What if I am only able to go halfway around before my legs give out? How will I get back to my car? I imagined it being like swimming out farther than I ever had before only to face the possibility of drowning with the shore in sight, just short of safety. Even though the last eighth of a mile was slow going, each step carefully, consciously taken, I finally made it.
Small victory? Large victory? A victory either way. Tomorrow, I’ll try to do it again.