On 13th December 2018 I became the winner of Antarctic Ice Marathon, considered one of toughest marathon races in the world.
There I faced a very uncomfortable slippery surface with deep soft snow, Antarctic winds and low temperatures. It is an achievement of a lifetime for every athlete, but for me, living with the diagnosis of MS for 12 years, it was like conquering Mars.
I came there prepared, well-trained and 100% sure that I could complete the race, however winning it was out of the question. For the 15 years prior I participated mainly in mountain bike orienteering or adventure races therefore I did not consider myself a fast runner.
How did it happen?
Last Christmas my husband asked me what I would like for a Christmas present. I was browsing Facebook and noticed an advert for the event and pointed to it. He agreed to the present and joining the race, so after the Christmas party we started our preparation for the marathon.
This meant a full year on a professional training schedule, including regular massages, kinesiotherapy, CrossFit training and of course running our kilometres. Not easy to combine all that with our jobs and daily routines at home but everybody around was incredibly supportive including our kids and parents. For the past three years, I had been strictly following the recommendations by Dr George Jelinek; meditating, doing yoga and my case is a certain proof that this method works.
My journey with MS began almost 13 years ago, when one morning half of my face and right hand became numb. At that time my daughter was 6 months old and I was getting ready for the World MTB Orienteering Championship. So the doctors suspected a stroke and said that I have to slow down and stop training. That was shocking news for me, but at that time a did not know that in three weeks time I would pray it to be another stroke rather than MS. I was partly paralysed on the right side, with blurred vision and messed up speech. I was scared out of my mind, as every web page I opened led to the conclusion – that in approximately five years I will be in a wheelchair. Of course I went through the regular path of denial, “why me?”, anger and acceptance.
At that time I had not found the Overcoming MS community, but happily enough, my yoga Guru said that I have to completely change my diet eliminating meat, white flour and dairy products. As she was the only one who could calm my mind and I had nothing to lose and crazily wanted to get my body abilities back, I stuck to the new diet.
All the symptoms and even lesions on the MRI image disappeared after one year. I went to deep meditation classes and camps, started to train easy but regularly and finally started to think about having a second child. As I did not take any medication related to MS, but had contact with neurologists, they all said that I should not risk it and rather enjoy my good health. But I was meditating and had 100% confidence its going to be fine.
Three years after my daughter was born I gave birth to my lovely son. Nothing happened, the symptoms did not return. After one year I increased the amount of training I was doing and began preparing to get into national team again. At that time, I relaxed and really started to think that the MS diagnosis was just big mistake. Occasionally would slip out of diet and as nothing happened, I started to eat regular food just naturally using less dairy and meat.
Finding Overcoming MS
After six carefree years, the problems had returned. Almost three years ago I had a relapse, which affected my vision. My MRI showed up to 50 lesions and the journey had to be restarted from 0. This time I found the Overcoming MS community. I knew already that this method works and the website provided me with even more detailed instructions of how to control my situation. Again, deep meditation, yoga, psychotherapy, and of course strict diet helped me to get back on track much faster. I did not stop training, I refused traditional treatments and I was sure that I would manage to cope with the situation again.
So far so good. Winning the Antarctic race is proof that I am on the right track. I am very aware that my situation with MS is much, much better than that which other people face. That being said, I hope that my achievement could provide others who are newly diagnosed hope that a wheelchair in foreseeable future is not the only possibility, that people with MS still have control of their bodies and minds and that sometimes just being optimistic and not giving up might change a lot.
I am writing this on a plane from Antarctica, coming back to Lithuania as an accomplished athlete winning the Antarctic Marathon without mentioning my MS history.
I still have to figure out how I can help others with MS. It’s a very delicate situation. It’s not as simple as just saying, “Oh I won the race with MS, there are ways, you know.”
I am aware that my experience could in a way diminish the suffering and efforts of other people who are faced with more severe symptoms. I will get in touch with the local MS community and see what we could do together. But in my opinion, the most important thing if you have MS is to have hope that things won’t necessarily get worse in the future.