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1992 MS walk.

The 1992 Walk for Multiple Sclerosis was held in 250 cities last spring-- bringing pledges of $17 million to fuel the Society's services, research, education, and advocacy programs this year. Three terrific people tell their "Walk" stories here - three out of some 200,000 participants across the nation. George McAleer, a faculty member at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C. went the distance in Virginia. Diane Reaves, who is the Special Projects Coordinator at the Maine Chapter of the Society, did marathon coordinating sitting down in Portland, Maine. And in Tacoma, Washington, Susan Silva, a freelance writer, and her teenaged son, Sam Schauer, rallied friends, neighbors, and family members to recognize her mother's twenty-four-year struggle with MS.

Me? Walk 20 Kilometers?

George McAleer

Until a year or two ago, you could best describe me as "sedentary." I don't like the word, but it fit me to a tee. My fitness had slipped away; this is about my trip back.

The Situation

I was diagnosed with MS ten years ago. It started in my left hand and arm, then progressed to the lower part of my left leg and foot during the mid-80s. Two years ago I began using a cane because I was having trouble with balance. My muscles started to atrophy as the nerves lost their ability to conduct the proper signals.

The Challenge

Two years ago, I saw two young women wearing T-shirts that advertised a walk sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Talking with these two women set me to dreaming. "I could do that! I could walk 20 kilometers." "No you can't," responded the logical me. "You're not supposed to be able to do things like that. Remember, you have a debilitating disease, and you'd better not forget it." Reality took hold. I could only walk about a mile - and rather slowly. Twenty kilometers is 12.4 miles. "But if I could ever do something like that," I continued to dream. (The thought of it all still causes tears to well up in my eyes.)

Friends Can Make All the Difference

I began walking without announcing to anyone what I had in mind. I asked a friend, a retired army colonel, Bill Libby, if I could walk with him. He walks from three to six miles daily just to keep in shape. So I asked him if I could walk a mile and one-half with him, a single loop around Fort McNair where we work. It wasn't too long before I heard, "Let's do two loops, George."

Bill and I were joined by a colleague, Navy Commander Annette Wiechert. Having taken a few falls during earlier walks, I began to "fly" a V-formation on Bill and Annette, trailing a halfstep behind and between them. If they heard an unusual noise behind them, their arms would instinctively go out for a catch. Since I'm a former Air Force pilot, this was tri-service cooperation at its best!

Preparing for a 20K Walk: The Plan

It was time to "come out of the closet" and set up a training plan if I was going to pull off this 20K walk. No, I didn't believe I could do it. I simply didn't have the confidence yet.

Bill suggested a training schedule. The plan was to walk six days a week: "Short" walks alternating with "Long" ones, and an "Ultra-Long" walk on the weekend. I became somewhat anxious before each of these "Ultra" walks, but I usually had friends with me. They would mysteriously show up on Saturdays just as I was about to start, especially during the later stages of my training. What a coincidence.

The Big Day

I was ready for the first Sunday in April when it came. Our walking team, the Troubadours, met at my home. My niece, Julie, had handpainted the colorful T-shirt I was wearing. It announced on the front "YES, I have MS" and on the back "NO, I won't QUIT!" I gave instructions to the team - I had been elected team captain - that this was to be a fun day. The objective for each of us was to finish the walk. As a team, we had over a thousand dollars in pledges! After saying a prayer together - Lord knows, I needed it - we were off.

The day was warm so I paid particular attention to drinking lots of water. At the half-way point I sat down for four to five minutes and ate a banana.

The first effects of "heavy" legs began at the eight-mile point; I kept plodding along. Then I hit the "walker's wall" with only one and one-quarter mile to go. My legs were now wobbly, so I sat down for another four to five minutes rest. After two cups of water - one in the mouth, the other over the head from my son, Pat - I started out for the finish line. I'm convinced this is where all the training paid off; I was on "automatic" by this time. Twenty minutes later I made it.

Was there any elation as I crossed the finish line? I was higher than a kite. I can still feel a tingling as I write this.

What's Next?

I walk three days a week during the "off season." On Mondays and Fridays it's two to three miles; on Wednesdays, four or five. Remember when I spoke of being sedentary. You, like me, may have a similar choice to make. No, I'm not the twenty-year-old athlete of yesteryear. But I'm not sedentary like I used to be either - or worse, feeling sorry for my MS. I'm simply a man in his mid-fifties who is trying to keep in shape.

Sitting Out the Walk

Diane Reaves

At some point in their lives many people with multiple sclerosis find that mobility and freedom are aided by a wheelchair or an electric scooter. In fact, some of us have looked with envy at persons "riding" on occasions when we are worn out from walking. Most of the time I manage well despite my MS but after having spent nearly twelve hours on my feet working as a staff member for the MS Walk last year, I decided that this year I would "sit."

My adventure began with a call to T.L.C. Home Care, Inc., the company that loans equipment for the Maine Chapter. On the Saturday before Walk Sunday, I had my scooter.

I did spend the day "sitting." What was it like? I didn't get tired beyond the normal tired of working a busy event. But I learned that many people are not comfortable with those who appear handicapped in some way. I noticed avoidance, downcast eyes, hesitancy in speaking to me, and amazement when I got up and walked (which many people with MS are capable of doing). Children seemed the most at ease with me. I was on their level; they are accepting.

I also got the encouraging comments that it was "good to come back in from the walk and see someone who represented the reason why they were walking." I'm glad that I "sat out" the walk.

Walking for Mom

Susan Silva

I had been aware that the National Society organized an MS Walk each spring, and I had been promising myself that I would participate "one of these times." What I needed was motivation and some inspiration. And I found both in my mom, Ruth Hanway. Mom is what you have to call, "a pistol." She's got a great laugh, red hair frosted with gray, and clear blue eyes. She's always busy and ready to help out wherever she's needed. And she has had MS since 1968.

You wouldn't know that to look at her life. She keeps her house cleaner than mine will ever be. Her yard is full of carefully tended flowers, and she can tell you the standings of any team in the American or National league during baseball season. In between, she does occasional volunteer work for the Children's Home Society.

How does she do it? She keeps moving, even though it's not easy for her. It sometimes takes her hours to do the simplest task.

When I noticed her spirits were flagging a bit, I started trying to think of something I could do for her. I recruited my fifteen-year-old son, Sam, and we decided to sign up for the Tacoma Washington Walk to show her how many people cared about her. We wanted to raise a sizable donation.

I wrote a form letter and made copies which I mailed to everyone in my address book. I explained in the letter we were secretly raising pledges for MS on behalf of my mom. I don't think anyone who was contacted missed the opportunity to show their support!

The day before the walk, I primed up a Certificate of Appreciation with all our names and I had enlisted my dad's aid to keep mother home for the afternoon.

It was cold and windy and raining hard in Tacoma on the day of the walk. The ink ran on the registration forms and papers blew, but the crowds were thick, and everyone was smiling. There were teams of walkers with matching caps. There were people in wheelchairs. People were tugging at umbrellas, pulling down the hoods on their parkas and huddling around the complimentary coffee wagon.

About the third mile the rain stopped and the cheerleaders at the checkpoints yelled and applauded as we passed. We swilled some Gatorade. About mile six the sun tried to come out. Sam and I got a second wind and jogged. The thought of "getting one over" on my mom kept us going. We arrived at the finish line tired and hungry and very happy. We had just arrived home when the phone rang. It was my mother. It was one of the few times in my life I can recall her being nearly speechless. She had cried like a baby when she saw all those names on the certificate. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

A Delicate Balance

Every person with MS has a balance to maintain. On one side are the benefits of exercise - and all its important good effects on physical and psychological health. On the other side is the drain on one's energy.

For some people, exercising in the afternoon means they're too tired to spend time with the family that night. We'd like to hear from readers who've found solutions that work for them.

Exercise Tips

* Talk with your doctor about the exercise best for you.

* Short but regular sessions are best.

* Be sure to include warm up and cool down time.

* Drink more water than you think you need.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; 1992 Walk for Multiple Sclerosis
Author:Silva, Susan
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 1992
Words:1786
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