By: ROXANNA COLDIRON
Edited by: KELSEY CRUZ
“I try to not let fear run my life,” says Char Kintz, an aquatics instructor at the Akron General Wellness Center in Ohio. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, Kintz faces neurological disaster every day and never knows what to expect when she wakes up in the morning. Symptoms come and go, but she chooses to keep moving.
“Half my face went numb,” Kintz remembers. “I went to several doctors, but nobody could figure it out. Eventually, it went away. [Several years later] I woke up and part of my vision was gone. Then I went to a neurologist, and he diagnosed me with MS.”
She was only 24 years old.
Now, seventeen years later, Kintz teaches aquatics exercises to others who live with MS and is actively involved with the Ohio Buckeye Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“[Aquatics exercise] keeps me strong, keeps me moving,” she explains. “Being healthy is all about eating right and, well, moving.”
According to WebMD, when a person has MS, her body’s immune system enters the central nervous system and attacks the brain and spinal cord as if they were foreign. Over time, the resultant scarring and damage disrupts the nervous system’s communication with the body’s functions, with symptoms ranging from tingling and numbness to blindness and paralysis. While there is currently no cure, MS can be treated with medication and a healthy lifestyle.
“It is possible to have MS for awhile and not know it,” says Guyla Wehman, communications coordinator of the Ohio Buckeye Chapter for the National MS Society. “Symptoms vary – occurring sporadically over time – and come and go. Today we are more knowledgeable and have better technology for faster diagnoses.”
In fact, Wehman says the first oral medication for treating symptoms of MS was developed last year.
According to the National MS Society web site, volunteer opportunities exist in administrative support, community outreach, committee memberships and involvement, and fundraising activities.
“We [the National MS Society] are here to offer help and hope with our services and through our support of MS research,” Wehman says. “We have Walk MS and Bike MS.”
Several years ago, Cheryl Minor, an occupational therapist, yoga instructor, and Reiki master, participated in a clinical study for a groundbreaking, new medication to treat MS.
“I don’t take any medications now,” she says. “Instead, I do yoga and tai chi and Reiki.”
Minor teaches yoga two times a week at the Oak Clinic for Multiple Sclerosis in Uniontown, Ohio.
“It’s true that when you’re helping other people, you stay healthier yourself,” she says. “I’m sure that’s why I’m doing better. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Exercising is one of the ways Minor maintains her health.
“If you have MS, swimming, yoga, and tai chi (which is similar to yoga) are the best exercises,” Minor says. “Swimming is good because you can move easier in water than you can on land. Meditation – like you’ll find in yoga and tai chi – is also very good.”
The importance of breathing properly is one of the things she stresses in her classes.
“Change your breathing, change your life,” Minor says. “I did a whole workshop on breathing techniques for people with MS.”
According to the National MS Society web site, MS affects approximately 400,000 Americans, many of whom are women between the ages of 20 and 50. But as you can tell, MS is not slowing these ladies down.
“Health is being at peace with your life,” Minor says.
If you have MS, cancer, or another disease, never stop fighting for a cure. However, recognize your worth, value, and strength – and like Minor and Kintz – keep moving.
“Stay in the moment, appreciate the present, and take care of what’s important,” Minor says.