Name: Lisa Dasis
Hometown: Jackson, Tennessee
I’ve known Lisa Dasis for several years now, through conferences on MS and other chronic diseases that we have attended together. Lisa is a very influential advocate and blogger for multiple sclerosis (MS), and a good friend.
Recently, Lisa accomplished an amazing challenge despite her battle with MS — and crossed another item off her bucket list in the process. Her goal was to climb an indoor rock wall, and she did it!
Meet Lisa, and find out how fitness played a role in her conquering MS.
When were you diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and what were your symptoms?
I was diagnosed in 2004. I had been misdiagnosed with lupus several years earlier. I was falling, had weakness in all my extremities, and had muscle spasms, migraine headaches, tremors, pain along with numbness and tingling, some cognitive difficulties, bladder and bowel issues, and fatigue.
What motivated you to start working out to help battle your MS?
I was using a wheelchair within two years of my diagnosis, and was going downhill quickly. My doctor told me that I wasn’t responding to any medications, and there was nothing else that could be done.
But in 2008, I started improving, and after a second treatment with a new medication, I no longer needed to use the wheelchair. I started walking to improve my leg muscles and overall strength. I quickly saw how exercise was helping me to improve, and before long, I was walking four miles a day, had decreased many medications, and started losing weight thanks to not having relapses and not having to take steroids.
What are your symptoms currently, and have they improved since starting a workout routine?
I’ve noticed that I am maintaining muscle strength even after relapses have occurred. Being stronger actually shortens my relapses.
What’s your current exercise routine?
I walk four miles a day on a treadmill, do one to two hours of water aerobics five days a week, and walk my pets for two miles in the afternoon.
What is the biggest challenge in your workouts?
My biggest challenge is to give it 100 percent each and every day, even when I don’t feel up to it.
Are there times you want to quit or give up?
No, especially after seeing how much benefit I’ve gotten from it and how much better I feel afterward, particularly with pain, fatigue, and muscle spasms.
How do you stay motivated to continue exercising?
I have a wheelchair that needs its battery recharged every month even though I am not using it. I keep it where I have to look at it so I won’t end up back in it.
Have you altered your diet and nutrition regimen?
Yes, big time! I’ve eliminated sodas and caffeine — other than two cups of coffee in the morning — cut out fried and high-fat foods, cut way down on red meat, and started eating a lot of fresh vegetables with chicken or fish.
How has working out changed your life and helped with your MS?
It is responsible for where I am now. I have accomplished goals that I have set for myself and am feeling better about myself and my health.
Do you have any advice for those who want to conquer MS through fitness?
Don’t be afraid to try this. If exercise doesn’t work for you, you can always quit.
But don’t start out trying to jog if you aren’t even walking. Set small goals first, then keep setting larger goals. By doing this, I was finally able to reach my big goal of climbing the rock wall at my gym after eyeing it for a couple of years. You have to take many baby steps to get where you can finally take big steps or to even run.
At the same time, it’s easy to get into a rut, both with mild exercise and doing the same routine. Change it up and take bigger challenges, like adding weight lifting or even walking or swimming with weights.
The benefits outweigh the negatives. You will have decreased fatigue and pain, and other symptoms will decrease, too. And get this: You will sleep better at night. It’s a win-win!
Photos provided by Lisa Dasis.