Running is an important part of Lisa Vowles' battle with multiple sclerosis.
Not only did it help pull her out of a mental hole after she was diagnosed six years ago this week, it helps keeps her as fit as possible and the May 50K campaign for the MS Research Australia will help raise funds not only to work toward a cure for the degenerative neurological disease, but to support people living with the condition in their everyday lives.
The Sebastopol mum and her family will take part in the campaign after she discovered running a few years ago.
"You don't know what you can do unless you try it. I didn't know I could run until I started running," she said.
"I was stuck in a mental hole for a few years after diagnosis and I just couldn't dig myself out of it. It was a mental game but it was bringing my physical symptoms up higher. The problem with MS is stress can make your symptoms worse, which creates its own stress."
She was walking along the beach at Port Lincoln watching other people enjoying running and was inspired to try herself.
Before all this I only left the house to go to the doctor, grocery shopping, to take the kids to school or exercise so nothing has changed for me apart from having people around me more.Lisa Vowles
While her initial 1km was tough, she came back to Ballarat, got a personal trainer and learned how to run properly while building her fitness.
"When I crossed the finish line on my very first race ... I realised that I have MS, it doesn't have me any more," she said.
Research has shown exercise helps manage the pain, mobility and fatigue of MS and is linked to a reduced rate of relapse and a slowing down in disability progression.
"It's referred to as a snowflake disease because everyone's experience of it is different," she said.
Ms Vowles has nerve damage in her fingertips, hand and forearm which makes touching some everyday items including towels and jeans, painful.
Her sleep suffers, she has short term memory problems and cannot concentrate for long periods.
She also has trouble sometimes finding the right word, which can lead to laughs in the family home.
"I'll want someone to pass the pen and can't think of pen," she said. "I know what it is, I point to it but I can't say it ... or I'll say something silly like tell the kids to put their washing in the microwave instead of the laundry but they know what I mean,"
And if she gets fatigued she can sway and drift off to the side if walking or running, meaning she must always train or go out with a companion.
After years of dismissing symptoms such as numbness or pins and needles in her hands, she was diagnosed after her health deteriorated dramatically in 2013. She suffered chronic fatigue, memory issues and was rushed to hospital with right side paralysis thought to be the result of a stroke.
😍 THE MAY 50K STARTS NEXT WEEK! 😍— Kiss Goodbye to MS (@KISSGOODBYEAUS) April 23, 2020
Who else is keen to smash some goals this May? 💪🏻
Join our fun virtual fitness challenge and help leave MS behind us. Choose to run or walk 50km throughout May and do something great for your health. 💓#TheMay50K#KissGoodbyeToMSpic.twitter.com/BcJl5ZqoZq
But MRIs showed no sign of stroke and after a second neurologist examined her and a different scan was performed, multiple sclerosis was diagnosed.
The current coronavirus lockdown means she now has her 12-year-old twins and 16-year-old home for schooling, though the complaints about some people about having to stay home do rile her.
"There are a lot of healthy people who complain they are locked up with their family for a couple of weeks and not coping ... but there's a lot of us out there who have to do it every single day not because the government says, but because our body tells us we have to," she said.
"Before all this I only left the house to go to the doctor, grocery shopping, to take the kids to school or exercise so nothing has changed for me apart from having people around me more."
She said raising funds was vital, even during the coronavirus crisis, because it helped people living with life changing conditions to cope with everyday life.
"This is not just about finding a cure. We still have to live with the condition and some of the money goes in to helping us survive and live day to day despite everything else happening in the world ... whether it's education, workshops, meeting other people with the same conditions, mentors, equipment," she said.
The May50K challenges people to walk, run or ride 50km during the month to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia.
"Raising funds is important to people like me because it is our road map to survival. If we don't have fundraising we don't get that road map to know how to survive our journey."
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