Fit to Fight: Battling Disease With Fitness

My Aunt Margaret is the baby in a family of seven children. But despite her built-in sibling force field, protecting against all things evil, nobody could fend off her 2002 multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
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My Aunt Margaret is the baby in a family of seven children. But despite her built-in sibling force field, protecting against all things evil, nobody could fend off her 2002 multiple sclerosis diagnosis. MS is a disease classified by the abnormal attack by the immune system on the central nervous system (brain, spine and optic nerves), resulting in damage to the myelin sheath that protects the nerves. Once that damage or destruction occurs, communication from the brain to the spinal cord is interrupted and/or distorted.

This often debilitating disease projects progressively worsening symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, vertigo, pain and tingling, weakness and movement difficulties, all of which my Aunt Margaret struggles with daily. Although she administers injections to help control symptoms, there is no cure, and there is not a clearly identified cause. And for many, the psychological burden of MS almost matches the physical challenges.

But Aunt Margaret is not like most. Maybe it was all those big brothers she had, but her tenacity and will have never let her skip a beat. She lives with more vigor and enthusiasm than the vast majority of people, and I find her exceptional attitude admirable and astonishing.

Aunt Margaret’s first exposure to CrossFit came at the 2013 MAT Games, where she came to help my gym host the event. She knew we did some “crazy workout thing,” but she had never witnessed what exactly CrossFit encompassed. She was left in a state of awe and envy of the athletic prowess of each competitor, and she was intrigued by the diverse representation of ages and abilities.

Over the course of the next few months, she began to ask vague questions about our nutrition and training, and she was thrilled to learn that my sister and I were headed her way to compete as a pair. She excitedly committed to attend as a spectator, and when the time came, she sat ringside and cheered us on through each event. At that point, Aunt Margaret had sipped the so-called “Kool-Aid” and craved a big drink.

Her affiliation with the Offutt Air Force Base offered the convenient and reputable Team Offutt Tactical Fitness program as a place to participate. Following discussions with and full approval from her neurologist, Aunt Margaret began her journey with an On Ramp program designed to work her way into things.

Pushing aside any fears or hesitations, she shined, despite being the oldest participant at 50 years young. And in the past 12 weeks, my aunt has continued to progress and battle her body’s disease with improved fitness and healthy nutritional changes. Her energy level has significantly improved, her balance issues and back pain have subsided, and she now has the confidence she needs to fight MS to the best of her ability. She believes that giving up is not an option, and CrossFit has provided her a means to take back control of her life. She’s pleased to say that she hasn’t felt this great in more than two years.

Like most CrossFitters, Aunt Margaret cherishes the support and community, hates toes-to-rings and aims for personal progress daily. But unlike many CrossFitters, she doesn’t take her physical abilities for granted. Her gains are about something much greater than just getting in shape. She’s learning how to fuel her body for a battle against a lifelong foe, and I’m certain CrossFit will help her remain fit to fight.

Abi Reiland
Co-Owner, Trainer - CrossFit 8035
Director, The MAT Games
Author, Pretty N'Gritty