Climb every mountain

Written by on August 5, 2013 at 11:00 am

About ten years ago, I heard four words that changed my life: "You have multiple sclerosis." I had no idea what MS was, nor did I know anyone with MS. There was tingling in my arms, I felt fatigued a lot, and my right leg would drag to the point that I had trouble crossing a room. My symptoms would come and go, and I never knew when I would have another relapse or how long it would last. I was married with a 2-year-old and afraid of how I would be able to take care of my son and myself. Working was out of the question — how could I work while having MS? I felt alone and scared. I soon slipped into a major depression.

Eventually, I joined support groups and met other people with MS. They helped me understand that I was not alone. My spirits started to lift. As the years went by, I grew more confident.

A few years ago, someone showed me a mountain. "Do you want to go climbing?" he asked. I said, "Are you nuts? I have MS! There's no way I could climb a mountain. What if I start having problems? What if my leg dies out on me? What if…." Since I got diagnosed, these questions often stopped me, but my friend convinced me to try, promising I had to go only as far as I felt comfortable. I relented and, once I made the decision to climb, decided to go as far as I could. I actually made it to the top of the mountain! It was a small mountain, but a mountain nonetheless. The view from the top was amazing — but even more amazing, my attitude started changing. If I can climb a mountain, I wonder what else I can do? I realized that the "what ifs" were causing me to miss more of my life than I realized.

Marisa climbing Mt. Monadock

Just keep climbing!

The feeling of conquering something I never thought I could do was almost addictive. I wanted to climb again. The second time was not as easy, but I was determined. Slowly and steadily, I made it to the peak. But the problem with going up a mountain is you have to go back down! The concept seems obvious, but it really hits hard when you can barely get your leg over a single rock. There is no other way off the mountain: you just keep plugging along until you get to the bottom. No way did I want to do that again!

But, being the stubborn person I am, I climbed again and again. Some times were easier than others, and there were more times I swore I would never go again. Each time, I was terrified that my MS would take my legs — but I always went anyway. Now, each year I challenge myself to bigger mountains. What drives me to climb is the same question that once stopped me: "What if?" What if my legs get so bad this will be the last mountain I can climb? What if I don't climb this year … would I regret it when I can't next year?

Over the past three years, I have climbed some sizable mountains in New England, many of them 4,000+ footers. Each had its own challenge, but they also provided amazing views and feelings of accomplishment. Last year I climbed Mt. Adams, the seconds highest mountain in New England. I still can't believe I made it to the top above the clouds. It was amazing!!

Marisa atop Mt. Monadnock

The view from the top is incredible!


This year, I am training even harder, because on August 9th, I will attempt Mt. Washington, the highest mountain in New England. Imagine! Me, who has MS and was scared to do anything, climbing the highest mountain in New England! Four years ago, climbing Mt. Washington was a crazy idea — but here I am, crazy as ever and ready to climb.

All of us with MS have our own mountains to climb: walking around the block or to the mailbox; standing for a moment to take a photo with your child who is getting married; going out with friends, playing with your kids (or grandkids), volunteering at an event, or inspiring people with a speech. We have our good days and our bad days. We do what we can, when we can; if we can't, that's okay too. Let's use our bad days to rest and plan for our next good days.

We have MS, but MS doesn't always have us! Climb those mountains!

(Follow Marisa on Facebook as she tackles Mt. Washington this Friday!)

Marisa, a resident of Central Massachusetts, was diagnosed with MS in 2003.  In 2004, she heard about the MS Challenge Walk and decided to try to walk the 50 miles.  Right before the walk, her MS caught up with her and she could not walk that year.  She asked what else she could do and was told about the being a part of the crew.  Marisa fell in love with being a crew member and has spent several years working the Big Top Tent.

6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jodi Jodi Dwyer says:

    Marisa good luck on Aug 9th. That is quite a challenge but I'm confident you will do it! I'll be thinking of you and sending you strength that day! Best wishes.

  2. Kathy Hannon kathy says:

    Way to go girl!! We'll be thinking of you on the 9th!

  3. Cathy Leydon says:

    Marissa,I'll be thinking of you on Aug.9th and sending you all my positive thoughts. You can do it girlfriend!!! I plan to try something new for me that day,thank you for sharing your story..it gave HOPE

  4. Rhonda says:

    Wishing you the best of everything for your climb. I bet you make it to the top and that you will post some pic's of it

  5. Jeremiah Juso says:

    Great story!
    Do you do the Climb to the Top at the John Hancock tower in Boston?
    climbmsgne@nmss.org
    This will be my second year doing it- Plus I have plans to do Mt Washington this summer!

    • marisa Marisa says:

      Hi Jeremiah,

      I have not tried the Climb to the Top – John Hancock but I am sure that is an amazing event. That is great you have done it!! If you are planning on Mt Washington, my advise it that you practice on smaller mountains first if you have not done so already. Mountains are a little different challenge than the John Hancock. Not that it is harder, just different. Mountains have always been my "thing" but I have thoughts of trying other events. I have been involved in the MS Challenge Walk in Cape Cod, MA for many years now. I don't usually walk, I volunteer for the 3 day day (crew). I love crewing. If you are ever there, I always work in the big top tent, I welcome all to stop by visit!

      This year (2014)I am planning other mountains to climb but MS has acted up to the point I am out of work on disability right now. I am trying to working hard to try to fight my MS so I can climb again. It takes a lot out of you when you think you might not be able to do what you love to do anymore. What I have learned though, is I am glad that I did what I did when I could. If I can't do it again, at least I have no regrets. And there are always other "mountains" to climb and new adventured to be had. :)

      Good luck on your climbs!!!

      And remember, "I (we) have MS, but MS doesn't always have me (us)." Climb your "mountains"!!

      Marisa