Having MS has turned into a blessing before my eyes. This is my story.

When I was first diagnosed with MS, there was a lot of wondering. Where did all this exhaustion come from? I had cramps in my legs, toes, and more. I was not able to keep up with my regular day. Furthermore, I began suffering from memory loss, loneliness, and depression. I remember having episodes. It was frustrating not knowing why I was sick, not being able to breathe while walking across a room and ending up in the ER so often. I spent all my time wishing that the doctors could figure out why I was feeling so awful. I was always the kind of person who loved working out but my deteriorating back that led to four back surgeries made this increasingly difficult. But I knew there had to be more to this than having a bad back. If I could just pinpoint the problem, I could work on fixing it.

Finally, during one of my trips to the ER in 2005, the doctor decided to send me in for a CT scan. Upon seeing the results, he asked me if I had ever been checked for MS. I didn’t even know what that was! So, he sent me in for more tests, and I got my answer. I was diagnosed with MS.

After coming to terms with this life-changing diagnosis, I started the process of changing my life. I knew I had to start taking even better care of myself than I did before to alleviate this pain and the depression that went along with it. There was no way I was going to let this defeat me. I figured that the best place to start working towards tackling my MS would be joining a gym, which is how I ended up at Westwood Health and Fitness. This is when my life truly started to change for the better.

In addition to the enjoyment I get through working out, the community at Westwood drastically impacted my life for the better. One day, as I was going about my typical workout routine, I noticed a special event going on. It was an indoor triathlon that included other people who had MS. I found myself cheering the participants on! The way that they were all working so hard was inspiring.

Then, to my surprise, a man came up to me and introduced himself as Dan Erschen. I shared my story with him, to which he shared information with me regarding the MS gym that he’d started. He invited me to join! As I left the gym that day, I remember going home feeling so blessed that my faith had led me to that very place on that day to meet Dan.

I finally started to feel like the doors in life were opening for me again, instead of closing. Through the kindness that Dan showed me, I was able to join a family of people who were going through the same struggles with MS as I was. My heart swelled with eager anticipation for my first day. And sure enough, when the day came, it was everything I’d hoped for and more. Never in my life have I experienced so much love, grace, and joy in one place. As I got back in the car to go home, my eyes were filled with tears of joy and I thanked the Lord for leading me to this amazing community. I started to think that by the next year, with the support of this group, I might be able to do the triathlon!

Since joining, I participated in a swim class for people with MS, as that was all I had at the time. A dear friend, Kathy Korn, had recommended it to me. She was extremely helpful by telling me exactly how to get there and the story of the place. We were both giddy about me showing up on Wednesday morning! Once I got there, I worked with one of Dan’s volunteer helpers named Jake. He was so kind to everyone. I could tell right away that, through a gift of grace, I had found my people.

This gym and this community named MS-Just Keep Moving are all truly touched by God. The amount of acceptance, love, and support—even for new people—is overwhelming. The opportunities provided are great, such as the huge bike ride from Pewaukee to Madison. I have not completed the whole ride yet, but I know someday, I will. The National MS Society puts so much work into this including the awesome volunteers at every rest stop, so I am determined to achieve success. There are also trials provided by Dr. Ng to help with MS.

MS-Just Keep Moving is our saving grace with MS. I could not be more thankful for all this love and support. Though I could keep rambling about how amazing this is, you must walk through the doors to truly see what I see. Never give up and always hold onto your positivity. Dan always says, “It’s the people.” Now I know that he’s right.