As a former New Yorker now living in California, I love to hear about great things happening for people with multiple sclerosis in my old stomping grounds. Here’s a story that highlights the power of fitness that I think you’ll find inspiring and worth sharing.
Maret Asaro’s first symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS) likely occurred in 2004, when she experienced numbness in her hands and feet. Asaro, now 48, suspected she had a pinched nerve, possibly brought on by her demanding schedule.
“I am a television makeup artist and hairstylist, and at the time, I was in charge of guests on the Ricki Lake show,” she says. She was also raising a four-year-old son and commuting in and out of New York City from Westchester County each day.
In hopes of getting help for her symptoms, “I visited a chiropractor a few times, but I was not getting any better,” Asaro says.
Frustrated, she went to a hospital emergency department, and the doctor there sent her for an MRI. The results showed early signs of multiple sclerosis.
But Asaro was uninterested in dealing with any more tests to confirm this diagnosis. “It just was not the right time,” she says. “My son and my career required all of my time and attention. I wasn’t ready to accept this diagnosis.”
New Symptom Requires Action
Two years later, Asaro developed an alarming new symptom that affected her vision. “I was driving into the city on the West Side Highway, and every time I looked at my dashboard, I would lose my sight. But when I looked straight ahead, my sight would go back to normal,” she says.
She managed to see an optometrist that same day before going to work, who told her that her eyesight was perfect but suggested she see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to determine why she was having trouble seeing. She took that advice, and on her first day off work she saw an ophthalmologist who suspected this new symptom was caused by MS.
Asaro had another MRI, which showed that her MS had progressed since her previous scan. Her symptoms had progressed, too.
“My feet flopped when I walked, and my balance was compromised,” says Asaro.
This time, Asaro was ready to deal with the diagnosis and sought treatment from a neurologist, who encouraged her to stay active and change her diet.
For her part, Asaro was unwilling to give up her mobility and enlisted the help of family and friends to go on walks with her. She and her son were big fans of the Putnam Trailway, a recreation path near their home, and she did not want to miss out on walks or bike rides on the “Old Put.”
From Walking to Strength Training, and More
It was just off the Old Put that Asaro found Mike Anzovino’s h.o.w. Approach fitness center in Yorktown Heights, New York. After a free consultation, she agreed to sign up for his program for one month.
Anzovino, in addition to being a certified personal trainer, has done coursework on MS exercise management through the American Council on Exercise and is currently working on the MS Fitness & Wellness Specialist course through American Fitness Professionals & Associates.
He initially helped Asaro improve her balance, then got her started with strength training, cardio training, and a new meal plan.
As Asaro’s balance, strength, and overall fitness improved, she started signing up for runs, Spartan races, mud runs (races that involve wading through a mud pit), and triathlons. She plans to complete her third triathlon in Mahopac, New York, in September 2017.
When asked to what she attributes her success, Asara says, “I’ve been on three different types of medicine, and my body responded well to all of them. But great doctors, Mike (my trainer), and staying focused on diet and nutrition have been key. I don’t think about my wellness anymore. I let my doctors and trainer do the thinking. I am so lucky I have such incredible resources right here in Yorktown.”
David Lyons’s new book, Everyday Health & Fitness with Multiple Sclerosis, coauthored with neurologist Jacob Sloane, MD, PhD, offers nutrition advice, a mental approach to fitness, and discussion of the mind-body connection.
Photos courtesy of Mike Anzovino