Running for her life

I have a new hero.

Living in the MS community, I encounter a lot of heroic people. They deal with the volatility of their shared condition with courage and grace beyond what most of us can muster up.

kayla1Kayla Montgomery might be the foremost example of them all.

It’s possible you’ve already heard about her; she’s been in the news for several months, and for good reason. Diagnosed with MS at the tender age of 14, she refused to give in to it. Instead she’s fighting it on her feet, running for her life.

After becoming one of the country’s premier high school runners, she’s doing the same in her college career, all after being given the dread diagnosis. MS obviously hasn’t sapped her strength. Rather, it causes her legs to go completely numb when her body heats up after a short time running. Most of the race she can’t feel her legs. At all.

Think about it. She can’t feel the legs that are propelling her to racing victories. Imagine walking on legs you can’t feel, as if they weren’t there, but rather were prosthetic limbs. But it’s worse. Even a runner on prosthetic limbs has control over them. In Kayla’s case, only her inertia keeps her kayla2going. If anything interrupts the rhythm of her pace, say, getting her feet clipped by another runner or simply finishing the race, she collapses in a heap. At the finish line, she’s unable to stop and stay upright. Her coaches have to catch her.

Kayla’s not taking MS lying down. Thirty years ago, doctors would have told her she had to not only stop running, but not exert herself at all. In that era, she might have spent much of her time at rest. Today she runs like the wind.

I would in no way dare to compare myself to this singularly courageous girl, but hers is the attitude that keeps me on my bike. It’s my therapy. I have no desire or plan to stop.

Who knows how Kayla’s disease might have progressed had she stopped pushing herself? Would she have lost what she didn’t use? Maybe, but no one knows. It’s the nature of MS. With that amount of uncertainty, why not try it and see where it leads, as one might a clinical trial?

It’s safe to assume Kayla will keep running until she can run no more. God willing, that won’t be for many, many years. Similarly, my bike will roll under me as long as I can keep it upright.

For more about Kayla, read this article and this NPR story and watch this video.

If she doesn’t inspire you, check your pulse.

There’s a dark side to my post, but it has nothing to do with Kayla. If you have a strong constitution, read the comments at the end of the NPR article. I’ve long known – and have written on it before – that Internet comments sections are the realm of sickos and nut-jobs, but these hit unusually close to home. Among the mostly positive sentiments, you’ll hear from ignoramuses with no more knowledge of MS than they have of quantum mechanics trying to tell Kayla how she should live her life with MS.
Beware, though. The self-anointed experts don’t just haunt the Internet. They’re everywhere.

About rickconti

It's not about me, remember?
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2 Responses to Running for her life

  1. Nikki CB says:

    Beautiful. And extremely impressive. Of her – and you. Also, thanks for the warning about the comments. I generally avoid internet comments (um….except the ones I post I guess?) but I appreciate the word of caution nonetheless. It would likely make my blood boil.

  2. rickconti says:

    I wish I had your sense of restraint. Every time I read an interesting news item, my eyes drift – almost against my will, definitely against my better judgment – down to the comments. Every time… bubbling blood!

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