To celebrate International Dog Day, we spoke to Cat, who was diagnosed with MS two years ago. Cat shared how getting active with her Cockapoo Stanley helps her get active during harder times.
Hi, my name is Cat, I am 31 years old and I live with RRMS. I have a cockapoo named Stanley.
Now when I think back to my early symptoms and diagnoses, everything seems so blurry, and that’s the thing, it was literally blurry. In September 2018 I woke up and the room was spinning. In short, I had nystagmus. At that point, doctors started tests to find out what was wrong, and the spinning vision lasted for about a month. The whole time I was exhausted, incredibly uncoordinated, and worried about not having answers. For the most part, I attributed it to stress until I went totally blind in one eye in February 2019. I went to the emergency room, was taken to a ward, and sent to an MRI. The results confirmed a diagnosis of MS and I stayed in the hospital for a steroid regimen.
In the days and months that followed, my eyesight gradually began to decline. My next relapse followed shortly afterwards, this caused double vision. Knowing this was a relapse, I went straight to my family doctor who started prescribing steroids for me again. Because of the frequency and severity of these relapses, it was decided that I can start with the DMD Mavenclad (assuming I passed all required tests beforehand, which I did). During that first year of relapse, diagnosis, and treatment, I struggled with fatigue, poor coordination, weakness in my left leg, altered sensations, and a bad mood. I made some life changing decisions about my job and my lifestyle that were difficult to accept at the time.
So here we are in 2021, I completed the Mavenclad course, recovered well from my relapses affecting my eyesight and balance, and was fortunate enough to lead an active life. But there is one thing that I like to do, that I have persevered in even in difficult times, that takes my mind off everything and I am grateful every day that I can do it. It’s a sport called canicross.
The bond it creates with your dog is amazing. Of course, I LOVE my dog Stanley so much anyway, but we’ve been canicross together for a long time and have taken on many challenges as a team.
Canicross is the off-road sport where your dog runs hands-free with a specially designed kit that includes a human hip belt, bungee leash and harness for your dog. I started canicross about six years ago and before my diagnosis I ran canicross, ran marathons and became a DogFit Canicross Instructor about four times a week. It is difficult for me to put into words how special this sport is because it simply has so many advantages for humans and dogs. First, the bond it creates with your dog is amazing. Of course I LOVE my dog Stanley so much anyway, but we’ve been riding together for a long time and he has learned so much and we have taken on a lot of challenges as a team. Dogs really trust you and Stanley is up to any adventure and has made me proud on so many occasions. I made so many great friends through Canicross. When I was in the middle of my relapses and couldn’t take my dog with me, friends from Canicross came and took Stanley out for me to run. The support from the group was amazing. When I got out again (still regaining my vision and being a bit shaky and shaky) everyone made sure I was okay on the trails and gave me great support. Canicross has been amazing not only for my physical health, but also for my mental health. Being on the trails, focusing on my beloved dog, and with a group of like-minded people has helped me tremendously through the lows of relapses and diagnosis.
To come back to this diagnosis, I remembered that one of the first things I wanted to know was, “Can I still run marathons?” In short, my counselor said yes, but cautioned that fatigue and future relapses could have an impact on it. I haven’t had to run a marathon since the diagnosis, but a marathon is due in October 2021. Stanley and I are going to race the Jurassic Coast together and I hope to say that I can still run marathons the next time I visit my agents in November.