Well, 460.75 miles (741.5 km), to be exact.
When I wrote about April Hester in late September, the headline on my post was “She Has MS and She’s Hiking 500 Miles.” Well, she did it, hiking the Palmetto Trail from Walhalla, in the South Carolina mountains, to Awendaw, on the coast. With husband Bernie alongside, April completed the hike on Nov. 3. The couple had expected the hike to take 35 to 40 days. They did it in 34!
April with Madeline, newly diagnosed with MS, who drove eight hours to hike a bit with April.
(Photo courtesy of Bernie Hester)
April was diagnosed with MS in 1996, just after she turned 20 years old. Like many of us, she has balance and fatigue issues. Her legs can become tired, her foot sometimes drops and she falls a lot. April used “trekking” poles for the hike, even when the trail took them through through the downtown sections of some towns. She also wore ankle braces.
Needless to say, the hike wasn’t easy. Over the first seven days, the Hesters covered almost 100 miles of mountains, with some sections that were almost vertical walls. Bernie Hester tells me, “April nearly lost two toenails but we pushed through all the pain.”
The further she goes the stronger she gets
April is on one DMD, Gilenya. She also tries to eat a lot of vegetables and fish. But, Bernie says, the hiking exercise is what really builds April’s strength:
Tough going as April crosses a marsh. (Photo courtesy of Bernie Hester)
“I can say from watching the progression that, as hard as it was on her in the beginning, the more exercise she did the stronger she got. The transformation happened right in front of me and it was amazing to watch. The hardest part was getting started with all the falls, short distances, quick breaks needed and learning curve of how to do long distance with MS. But once we got it down, she just got stronger and stronger.”
That’s probably a good take-away for all of us who are able to do some sort of exercise, but who don’t. Day three, as Bernie told me, was “a tough day as we ascended to Sassafras Mountain, the highest peak in South Carolina. April had a lot of struggles and we only managed to cover nine miles that day. But she pushed hard so we could make the summit and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.”
Isn’t that the kind of effort and reward that those of us with MS should try to seek every day?
Why did she hike?
April hiked the trail to raise awareness about the fight against MS. She also hoped to raise money for the National MS Society. Unfortunately, she fell short of a lofty goal. There’s still an opportunity to make a donation, however, by clicking here.
You can also read Bernie’s day-by-day journal of the hike by clicking on April and Bernie’s Trail Journals web page.
(This post first appeared as one of my columns on www.multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com)