(This is an update of my column posted last week on www.multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com)
Tripping, falling and bloody knees.
Been there. Done that. (Who with MS hasn’t)? But this wasn’t me. This was Cheryl Hile and it was happening to her as she was running a half marathon in Carlsbad, California.
Cheryl had been running marathons for half a dozen years when, in 2006, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She says the diagnosis left her “devastated and very scared.” She was also depressed. Cheryl dealt with that depression by continuing to run. But then, after that stumble in Carlsbad, Cheryl’s neurologist told her that it happened because she had foot drop…when her right foot should have been raising it was dragging. And then the doctor tacked on a suggestion: lower your expectations, she warned.
“That p***ed me off,” Cheryl told www.sdnews.com. But rather than lower her expectations, Cheryl raised them. Cheryl worked with an orthotist who fit her with a light, durable carbon fiber brace, called an Ankle-Foot Orthotic (AFO), that held her dropped foot at an angle that would allow her to run.
Since then Cheryl has completed 30 half marathons, 31 full marathons and one 30 mile race with an AFO on her leg.
7 in 7 in 12
And is she’s doing more. Cheryl has made it a goal to become the first person with MS to run i
n seven marathons…on seven continents! And, she plans to do all seven in just 12 months. Take that, “Doctor No”!!
Cheryl completed first of these seven marathons in Cape Town, South Africa last Sunday, with a time of 4 hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds. Next comes Buenos Aires in October, Honolulu in December, Antarctica in January, Tokyo in February, Vienna in April and she plans to finish in Christchurch, New Zealand in June 2017.
Running Slower and Looking a Bit Strange
In addition to foot drop, Cheryl had four exacerbations in one year that left the right side of her body much weaker. At one point she could only lift her right leg an inch off the
ground. She recovered a bit and can now lift it about 4-5 inches. She says her foot drop coupled with a weak thigh makes her a much slower runner. Cheryl pushes off with the left side of her body and, she says, the right side of her body is basically “along for the ride. I have a funny gait and my right leg swings out, so watch out if you are running next to me!”
It’s More Than a Marathon for Cheryl
“The primary reason I am doing this journey is to give back to the MS Society,” Cheryl wrote me in an email. “They educated me about the disease and encouraged me to keep moving when I was first diagnosed and depressed. I want to be a role model for newly diagnosed to encourage them to do what they can and to never give up!”
So, on her CrowdRise web page, where she’s raising funds to cover this expensive journey, there’s a link for direct donations to the National MS Society. Cheryl says that once she’s reached her travel-expense goal she hopes to raise at least another $10,000 for the Society.
It’s not an inexpensive journey. Cheryl hopes to raise close to $60,000. Her biggest expense will be the marathon in Antarctica – nearly $8,000 per person. “I really do hope I make this fund raising goal,” Cheryl told me. “I am a frugal traveler and I am taking measures to cut costs.” When Cheryl and her husband landed in Cape Town at 9:45PM, for example, instead of going straight to a hotel for that first night, they saved money by staying at a cheapo motel across from the airport. “As long as I have a teapot or kettle in my hotel room,” she says, “I know I can have oatmeal for breakfast and gnocchi for dinner!”
We’ll keep track of Cheryl Hile on The MS Wire and wish her the best as she consistently pushes toward the finish line.