Running with MS - guest blog by Katherine Reed
Katherine Reed is a mom, owner of Texas Hand Pie Co. (formerly Come and Bake It), avid baker, and runner. When she's not covered in flour or wearing her running shoes, she's usually snuggling on the couch with her ginormous pitbull baby. Watch her demonstrate her favorite locally-sourced Thanksgiving recipes on Awareness Wednesday here or build a commercial kitchen in her barn here.
Runners tend to be vulnerable people, I think. Most people start running because they are trying to run away from a version of themselves that they don’t like, or run towards something they need or want. It’s a very emotional thing, which is something you might not expect from just pounding the pavement for miles and miles. But when you run, it’s just you and the road. No work calls or emails, no kids vying for attention, no distracting bad habits tempting you...it’s just you and your thoughts. It’s a fabulous inner monologue that helps you work through the issues of your day or life and helps you see things much more clearly. It breeds openness and introspection, and of course, those wonderful little endorphins. Running is therapy. I’m running away from Multiple Sclerosis. I have always been active and enjoyed pushing my athleticism, but life, work, and family tend to take over instead of self-care. In September of 2019, 5 months after my mom passed away from a pulmonary embolism, I lost nearly all of my vision. It started with a blind spot in the center of my vision, like a hole in a movie screen. Then my color vision disappeared, followed by my peripheral. I could only see out of a small crescent shape...not enough to even use my phone. I was diagnosed with MS the following month after the MRI showed new brain lesions on my brain stem. When I run, I struggle with foot drop which is where my brain and leg don’t get the message to pick up the foot on the next stride. My hands always go numb and can barely move to do anything until about 30 minutes after I finish running. I tend to get double vision if I’m particularly hot which can affect my balance. My mid-back goes numb towards the end of a long run, followed by the left side of my face which makes my speech sound slurred. But I pound on the pavement. Because I’m running. I’m numb, I’m losing muscle control in parts of my body, but I’m still running. I’m in control of my body. I don’t feel sick when I run. I don’t feel helpless. I don’t feel weak. I feel in control again. Even if the feeling is fleeting, I chase that feeling and will the rest of my life. One day, I will likely wake up and not be able to use my legs. But that’s not today. And as long as I can walk, I want to run. Multiple sclerosis doesn’t hold me down, it pushes me forward to build a stronger body so that I can look back at that monster and stick out my tongue. MS doesn’t have me when I run. I run so that I can play soccer with my daughter when she is in elementary school. I run so that I can give her a standing ovation when she graduates school. I run so that I can proudly walk down the aisle at her wedding before she does. I run so that my daughter won’t lose her mom from a pulmonary embolism at 56. I hope that my daughter can look back and see me as a strong mom, not a sick mom. I hope that she remembers the runs and races in the stroller. I hope she remembers that mom was always pushing to be strong and to not lose hope or give up. Because she’s the one that gives me that strength. So run on. Run towards the future you want, or the project you are scared to start, or the job you dream of doing. And run away from what makes you feel scared, unworthy, and weak. But most importantly, run while you still can.
You can learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and support MS warriors like Katherine on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.