My Experience with MS-Just Keep Moving – Rick Talbert  9-30-2019

Past:  Before MS-Just Keep Moving (MS-JKM) and personal MS history – I was first diagnosed with MS about 40 years ago when I was in my mid 20’s.  My initial symptoms were painless left leg limping, some minor loss of motor control with right arm, and Lhermitte’s phenomenon, the “electrical” sensation that runs through the back and limbs when bending the head forward.  MS is a diagnosis of exclusion so after ruling out brain tumor, pinched nerve, etc., my Neurologist suspected MS so he ordered a spinal tap, one of the few tests at that time to confirm MS.  The spinal tap came out negative so my initial diagnosis was “probable” MS.  Over the next approximate 20 years minor symptoms came and went with no particular symptom impeding my mobility.  Life was good.  I was able to do most physical activities like running, biking, playing golf, etc.  Over the last approximate 20 years, the MS “monster” gradually reared its ugly head.  Limping gradually transitioned to the need for using a cane which then transitioned to the need for using a walker, which I use now.  My current diagnosis is Secondary Progressive MS.

During these last 40 years, I was blessed and fortunate enough to hold down full time employment.  Marlene DeBuhr and I attend Spring Creek Church and she knew of my MS.  She discussed with me an organization she belonged to called MS-Just Keep Moving (MS-JKM).   Marlene discussed MS-JKM with me several times, the positive impact it had on her life, and invited me to come check it out.  At that time, because I was working full time I couldn’t fit it in to my schedule.  Within the last year, however, full time employment with an employer has transitioned to self-employment as a health insurance agent.  This now has allowed for greater scheduling freedom so I took up Marlene on her invitation, I contacted Dan, and he invited me to visit and check out MS-JKM.

Present:  I first started attending MS-JKM in April of this year.  At that time, though I’m a very positive optimistic person, I viewed “the reality” of my MS as a nonstop very gradual downward spiral.  We have stairs at our home and I was pricing a motorized chair lift to go up and down the stairs.  I was feeling weak, posture was worsening, and symptoms weren’t improving.  I felt complete mobility disability was inevitable…, and then I started attending MS-JKM.

My first day at MS-JKM was similar to the first day of school, a new job, and those experiences when you’re the “new guy”.  At first you do a lot of observing.  What I observed was the wide varying levels of MS among the MS-JKM members.  There were individuals confined to wheelchairs, those walking with canes or walkers, and some who have few outward signs of having MS.  Secondly, “Wow, look at all this workout equipment.  This looks like a health club.”  Third and most important was the caring, friendliness, and sincerity of the members and volunteers.  Everyone I interacted with had a smile on their face, they introduced themselves and made me feel very welcomed.

One of the biggest positives of MS-JKM is to hear and see the improvements in individual’s MS symptoms.  It may not happen overnight, but over the course of time many symptoms improve.  Personally, this has happened with me.  Having the facility, the equipment, the support from the volunteers and Physical Therapy Assistant students all helped contribute to my improvement.  A major impact was my triking experience.  During one of my first experiences at MS-JKM, Dan invited me to try out one of the recumbent trikes right there in the warehouse facility.  After a few laps in the warehouse it didn’t take long and I was sold on recumbent trike riding.  Dan also told me about the MS Bike Ride in August and MS-JKM’s involvement.  Because I saw the positive effects triking could bring, I went out that week and purchased a recumbent trike and made a personal resolve to participate in the MS Bike Ride.

Over the next several weeks I made use of the strength building, cardio equipment and participated in the Friday morning bike rides.  The first few bike rides were challenging for me.  It took a while to feel comfortable with the trike and build up strength in my legs.  I was lucky if I was able to go one mile.  In addition to the Friday morning bike rides, I would go out on my own and ride on some of the local bike trails.  When the MS Bike Ride came in August, the furthest I had gone on my trike was 6 miles.  Due to my limited experience, I was very apprehensive when the MS Bike Ride started.  Thankfully, I had an awesome team of four very experienced bikers assigned to me for the ride; Jerry Huhn, Jeff Shiroda, Judy Heichelbech, and Becky Thomas.  They would assist and push during challenging portions of the ride and provide positive verbal support during the entire ride.  By the end of the day, I had successfully ridden and accomplished the 50 mile route from Waukesha to Whitewater.  What an emotional high for me and my team!

I have been involved with MS-JKM for the past 6 months, and what a six months it’s been.  I’m still triking regularly with the MS-JKM group on Fridays and separately with a group of friends.  The triking has really helped.  Physically, I’ve seen an improvement in my MS symptoms.  Mentally, my resolve and determination to get better have strengthened.  Socially, I’ve met many awesome inspiring people and have made many new friends.  Spiritually, I’ve felt and seen the God’s hand in many of my experiences with MS-JKM.

Future:  If the next six months and beyond are anything like the past six months, I’m confident I will be getting stronger while my MS symptoms improve and go in reverse.  This is all due to my experiences with MS-JKM.  I look forward to competing in the MS Triathlon in the spring, going further in the next MS Bike Ride in August, and continuing to support all my fellow MS friends involved with MS-JKM.

A special thanks to all the volunteers.  MS-JKM would not be operational without their support.  Above all, on behalf of all my MS friends and associates at MS-JKM, we thank you Dan Erschen for your vision, leadership and support.