I am a 37 year old teacher, researcher, and endurance athlete. Last year I was diagnosed with MS and my world was turned upside down. I'm raising money to fund research for treatments and a cure. It's my mission to bring awareness to the disease and treatments so that newly diagnosed patients know they aren't alone. It's a battle we fight everyday, but with your support we can break free from the prison that is MS.
TriCalifornia’s SF Triathlon at Alcatraz is only one week away, I wish the finish line was the actual finish line for my disease. I wish the challenge were that if I could make it to that finish then that would be it. I would be finished with MS and I could put that chapter of my life to rest. But it isn't. It's the rest of my life. MS or multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the nervous system. Nerves are like electrical cords sending impulses to and from the brain and muscles all over the body. When the immune system attacks these electrical cords the rubber coating around the wires (myelin sheath) is distorted. When the attack is over the myelin sheath can be repaired but if the wire (nerve) underneath is damaged, that damage is permanent. When the immune system will attack, where, and for how long are all unknowns until it's happening.
At merely twenty four-years-old, a young man by the name of Frank Andrews Junior was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Over the next year, Frankie Jr. and his parents would endure chemotherapy and a battery of treatments that would fortunately wipe out the cancer. To celebrate his 10-year remission, Frankie Jr. looked to conquer more mountains; in 2007 he decided to join Team in Training and enter his first-ever triathlon, the notoriously grueling Wildflower Triathlon.
As he trained, Frank Jr.’s parents were back to support their son again by providing water stops for the team. It wasn’t long before they earned the moniker, "Team Frankie". Frank Jr.’s mother, Frances, even nourished the athletes with fresh grapes, strawberries, watermelon and other goodies and was endearingly known as the " Water Stop Queen". It would be an understatement to say that Frank Jr.’s parents were proud of their son but what his father, Frank Senior, didn’t expect was the feeling of deep inspiration he experienced by watching his son take on such a great challenge.
I am 77 years old and I feel fortunate to be still swimming, biking, and running. I started out as a runner in my early 40s. I noticed from a photograph taken of me with my small children that I had become overweight. It worked and my weight loss rewarded me. I made some runner friends who introduced me to racing. My children wanted to run with me when they were middle school, and when they were in high school they ran races with me. I always managed to finish a little ahead of them.
Later my middle son, Scott, was on the San Marin High School swim team and talked me into doing the Rolling Hills exercise club in Novato sprint triathlon. I was not a strong swimmer, and I wasn’t sure that I could swim the 500 yard pool course without stopping. Looking back, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a 1.25 mile swim.
I had difficulty maintaining a daily triathlon training schedule. Then I met some people who also competed in triathlons or swam, biked, or ran, and I trained with them. This kept my focus on my daily training schedule. I found a friend who would go to races with me. My longest drive was to race the Wildflower long course, and it helped to have someone to travel the 3-1/2 hour drive and share experiences.
Five years ago, Tisa Cawthon crossed the finish line at the 2011
Triathlon at Pacific Grove shocked that she’d survived the demands of a
three-discipline race. “It was so tough that I wanted to do it again,
but come back prepared, “ she said. At 35-years-old, she set out to find
what she was lacking. What Cawthon probably didn’t realize is that she
started that race fully equipped with what most athletes are hoping to
eventually gain from the sport: mental fortitude. Cawthon may have
started that race with only one arm, but what she brought with her was a
tenacity gained in a life of adapting to her challenge.
17, Cawthon was involved in a near fatal car crash that resulted in the
paralysis of her left arm. For the next 15 years she would secure her
arm in a sling. For the next 15 years she would endure the chronic pain
that goes along with towing the weight of a no longer functioning arm.
For the next 15 years she would hide behind the comfortable acceptance
of appearing to others that she simply had had a minor fall. At 15
years, she realized her arm was physically and mentally holding her back
and that needed to change.
It’s only May, but 2016 has already become the year that I have
stepped out of my comfort zone and pushed my limits more than ever
before. So far, I’ve ridden farther and climbed more hills than I had
ever imagine possible. All this, however, doesn’t happen without the
help of some pretty stellar, intimidating (but also way awesome) women!
The results: the euphoric exhaustion of exhilarating downhill descents,
breathtaking views, new friendships, and overcoming a major personal
Add on to that list a photo shoot with #TeamBetty2016.
Having battled and overcome an eating disorder, I would never have
imagined myself willingly modeling in front of a camera. But
representing Betty Designs,
a team that embraces strong, healthy athletes, gave me the confidence
to step into the light and be proud of my own strong body.
While instinctively I would have chosen to wear the team leggings or a
long-sleeved jacket, I was instead photographed wearing the team bathing
suit. This may not sound particularly challenging or limit pushing for
the average athlete, but to me it was a meaningful victory. It terrified
me that people would see my body and judge it negatively. But standing
there in front of the camera wearing only a swimsuit proved to me and to
the world that this time I had won - not my eating disorder.