Melissa Bilecky was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on Oct. 8 -- one month and one day after the first time she began to experience symptoms. Bilecky recalls the moment, which took place just five days after she turned 22.

"I was sitting outside on my back deck," Bilecky says. "I tried to move my right arm and it wouldn't move like it should've. I got up and had difficulty walking and then I noticed I couldn't feel anything on my right side. From my head to my toes. My neck, ear, face, torso."

They were all numb and tingly. Bilecky ended up going to the ER and was told to see a neurologist, who sent her for an MRI.

"He told me there are two lesions on the left side of my brain and that I should go to the hospital to start steroids while they do another MRI, a spinal tap and some blood work," she says. "The only way to diagnose MS is to rule out everything else. The blood work for similar diseases like Lyme disease and lupus were negative. My spinal tap was all clear."

She also began developing what she thought was a sore throat. Bilecky, who lives in New Jersey, was discharged from the hospital unable to speak or swallow, and went to her primary care physician, who said it was strep.

"She gave me a shot of antibiotic and she told me to come back the next day for another shot and a prescription and it should clear it right up," Bliecky says. "'Great,' I thought. This started on a Thursday and by Saturday night, I collapsed. My legs gave out on me. I couldn't move my arms. It felt like my head was moving inside my skull. I couldn't feel the bottom half of my body. I was taken back to the ER."

Doctors soon realized Bilecky did not have strep, but they didn't know what was wrong. It took a third MRI to lead them to an MS diagnosis. At this point, even though Bilecky had what she called a love-hate relationship with running, she was determined to keep moving.

"I remember the first time I ran a mile without stopping -- I felt like the world was mine," she says. "I did get pretty good at running and I actually liked it at one point. I would sometimes go for a few months without running but I would always put my shoes back on and try again. Some days were harder than others, but I never gave up. I think this new part of my life is going to be the same way. Running was training for MS."

Bilecky wants to have her diagnosis be a positive thing.

"Ever since I was little I've wanted to change the world, and I believe this is the way I will do it," she says. "MS is extremely under-studied, under-researched and under-funded. Many people don't know what the disease even is. All people know is that people can live with it. Yes, but how well can they live? The National Multiple Sclerosis Society Twitter page only has 35K followers. Most celebrities have more followers than that. And compared to the American Cancer Society that has 511K, and American Heart Association with 135K. So much of this disease just seems unacceptable to me and I want to change that."

Bilecky has her family's support along with friends. She says Twitter has also contributed to outpouring love and support.

"If I were to give advice to anyone out there, it would be to live each day as if it were your last because you think you have time, but you don't," she says. "Life and your health are the two most precious things. It's the most unpredictable thing-- it can change in an instant.

"The way I've been functioning for 22 years is no more. I was a normal 22-year-old reporter one day, and the next day my life completely changed. When a life-changing event like this happens, it opens your eyes to just how precious life is ... and our bodies. They're incredible things: walking, talking, eating, thinking all seem so simple until they're impaired."

Caroline Craven was traveling in Guatemala for a month with some friends in 2001. She says she had a backpack and no agenda. But during the trip she started losing her vision and balance.

"By the time I came home on the plane, I looked like I had a three-martini breakfast," Craven says. "I went to a neurologist and was confirmed Multiple Sclerosis in three tests. I was forced into an early retirement, moved back in with my parents, and my life changed forever."

Now Craven, 47, is trying to help improve the lives of others battling MS.

In addition to working as a marketing and operations consultant for local businesses in the Los Angeles area, Craven is a wellness coach through her website Girl with MS. She can connect with others because she understands what it takes to live with MS.

"I could barely think straight," Craven says. "My short-term memory was gone. One night I fed my dog five times in five minutes while my family was amused. My memory has returned as well as my ability to walk and see. But all of these can disappear in a day if the MS deems it so."

But family and friends have kept Craven motivated to fight this disease.

"When I was diagnosed there was one question only that I cared about since I knew nothing about MS: 'Will it take my life?'" she says. "When the doctor said no, a wave of relief and comfort came over me. Bring it on. I can do this."

Among the items on her bucket list is kayaking in Iceland. She recently checked off fly fishing and horseback riding.

"I've fished pretty much my whole life," Craven says. "But fly fishing is newer to me. After taking about 15 years off from fishing, I recently started up again. I am a member of the Pasadena casting club and often fish the Los Angeles river."

Craven says she follows her own protocol for nutrition as a certified nutrition educator and wellness coach. She has come to understand what works for her and what doesn't.

"I've used essential oils with great success for helping with pain and living a more holistic life, she says. "I use dōTERRA oils and either diffuse, apply or ingest as needed. ... I've recently added Kangan purified water to my routine. I'm looking for a better bounce-back rate after activities.

"Activity for folks with MS can be quite random," she explains. "Each morning I wake up, I scan my body. How does it feel? What's working what's not? Then I look at my options of activities and choose what I can do that day.

"In a former life I was quite active: Horse trainer, river guide, white water kayaker, mountain biker, back country skier, rock climber, overall adventurer. Today I have limits and boundaries. I can't risk putting other peoples lives, let alone my own, in danger."

Courtney Galiano was dancing before she was in kindergarten, and it led her to some of the biggest stages in the world. Galiano was a Knicks City Dancer, and she was featured in So You Think You Can Dance on Fox. Then she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the disease that her grandmother is also battling. Galiano worked with her doctor to figure out a way to keep on dancing. Here's her story, in her own words:

After losing 160 pounds through better diet and exercise, Neil Brennen hoped he could inspire others to reach their health goals. He began a blog called A Taste For The Woods "for people who want to experience the outdoors despite challenges."

Through his blog, Brennen, 48, has been documenting the exploits of a man named Adam, who is hiking the Appalachian Trail despite battling Multiple Sclerosis.

"He's a decade younger than me, half my weight," Brennen says. "A soldier. Outdoorsman."

Adam was diagnosed with MS a decade ago, but he just climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the tallest mountain in the northeastern United States and has hiked more than 700 miles, a third of the total distance of the Appalachian Trail. Adam suffers from some neuropathy (nerve pain) in his legs from MS, but he was determined to continue.

"He's had to give up his career since his symptoms come and go, and he can have a very bad couple of months at any time," Brennen says of Adam. "When he is feeling good, he still has to think about the disease -- for instance, hot weather can bring out the worst in his symptoms. He's been hospitalized repeatedly and at one point was so bad doctors suggested he prepare his will."

Instead Adam showed his willpower. He told Brennen that the Pennsylvania section of the trail "is like a walk through a mall" compared to Vermont and New Hampshire but it was good preparation.

The portion of the Appalachian Trail from the Wind Gap in Pennsylvania to the Delaware Water Gap at the New Jersey border is considered to be one of the toughest stretches. Adam had a flare-up with some symptoms that prevented his continuing past Wind Gap, but he covered all but 16 miles of the trail in Pennsylvania.

After New Hampshire, Adam will attempt to his finish his journey in Maine by climbing Mount Katahdin. If he makes it, he will plan to celebrate the way he usually does, by rewarding himself with a big steak dinner.

When Vicki Wilson was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in May 2012, she was devastated.

PPMS effects only 10 percent of people with MS, and she was not sure what to expect.

"The patient never has relapses," Wilson says. "The disease just continually progresses and will leave them wheelchair and/or bedridden. It typically starts with weakness in the legs, making walking difficult. I had always been very athletic and active. This was very difficult to hear."

Wilson, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., says her husband and family are her biggest supporters. Her parents even flew halfway around the world to accompany her on a trip to receive treatment.

Wilson remains active because she refuses to let the disease stop her from doing physical activities.

"I lift weights, walk, ride my bike and kayak," says Wilson, 48. "I think being physically active is so important for everyone with MS. It really does help."

Although treatment options are limited for PPMS, Wilson thought there had to be something out there -- just maybe not in the U.S. She had to give up on her career (she worked in educational furniture sales specialist in north Florida) and focus instead on digging up treatment options on the Internet. There she found a Facebook forum about a treatment that uses the patient's own stem cells to reboot their immune system.

Wilson applied to hospitals around the world for entry into their treatment programs, and a Moscow hospital accepted her.

"They gave me a 60 to 70 percent chance of stopping the progression, but little hope of regaining what I'd lost," Wilson says.

After falling repeatedly, Wilson decided it was time to try the treatment. A bowling fundraiser was held for her to help her go to Russia and pay for the specialized treatment. She checked into the hospital in Moscow on August 19, 2013, and spent more than a month there.

"I've spent the last year trying to regain some of what I've lost," she says. "After six months I no longer needed my trekking pole, except for long walks. Before the treatment I could barely walk a quarter-mile. I can now walk two miles once a week and walk 1.5 miles several days a week."

Not only did the treatment stop Wilson's progression, but she is slowly getting stronger.

"I've started riding my bike again, and it feels great," Wilson says. "I feel I will be able to ride 10 miles before the end of the year. I'm at seven currently. I have so many people cheering me on.

"I know with continued hard work, I can maintain or even continue to improve over the next year. Staying physically active has truly been the key."

When Amy Penszynski began having a vision problem in 2008, it turned out to be something called optic neuritis in her right eye. It's a swelling of the optic nerve, which is sometimes linked to multiple sclerosis. Her ophthalmologist had Penszynski follow up with an MRI.

"The MRI showed lesions on the brain, which are shown in MS," Penszynski says. "Some more cognitive tests and a spinal tap confirmed a mild case of MS."

The hardest part for Penszynski was the waiting. The Glassboro, N.J., woman says the tests were excruciating mentally and emotionally. The news of her MS diagnosis even caused her to slip into depression for a while.

"My first scary thought was, 'Oh my God, am I going to end up in a wheelchair? Am I going to be paralyzed?'" Penszynski says.

Penszynski, 38, spent many weeks in bed trying to get through symptoms. She had difficulty walking due to numbness in her feet and legs, causing her to have poor balance as well. The support of Penszynski's family, friends and fiancé Seth, motivated her to push forward.

"I had so much fear and anxiety. Fear of the unknown, what was to come," she says. "I did a lot of praying and got myself a good neurologist, and got on medication. Slowly my symptoms subsided, which definitely helped my mood, and I started to move around more ... and think more positively.

Penszynski, a massage therapist and Reiki practitioner, started becoming proactive. She changed everything about her eating habits and ate predominantly healthy food. She says her theory is that food can be poison for our bodies or it can be medicine. She tries to incorporate a lot of anti-inflammatory foods into her diet and is a user of and an advocate for Shakeology, an all-natural meal replacement shake, for almost three years now. Penszynski recommends the shakes to anyone, even if they don't have MS.

"I feed my body right and I also make sure I exercise in some way, shape, or form every single day, whether it’s stretching, yoga, a walk with my dog, a run, my Beachbody workouts at home, hiking, swimming ... whatever I feel that day," she says. "I like variety, but 99 percent of the time you will find me doing a Beachbody workout in my workout room or living room. Those workouts, mainly P90X with Tony Horton (my favorite trainer!), helped to change my life drastically in so many ways."

Penszynski started her health journey in 2005 at 235 pounds standing at 5-foot-3. She has almost reached her 100-pound goal at 139 pounds. Penszynski's decision to get healthy came before her MS diagnosis, but combating that disease has further motivated her fitness efforts.

"I used to hate running and working out until I tried it and became hooked on the feeling afterwards; the adrenaline, the good mood after, the sense of accomplishment, knowing I did it, the results that kept coming. I hit some snags along the way. I am human after all ... but I found my inner athlete, and even though I’ve backtracked a few times or had some health issues, I always manage to get back up and get going again somehow, because I know how I feel when I AM on track, when I AM taking care of my body."

Penszynski says she has realized that her new approach to health is not a race to the finish line, not a diet, not a fad -- it’s an entirely new lifestyle.

"We get one body, and I try my best to take care of that body. I think about my own health, how lucky I am overall, that I am grateful that I CAN move around, so I will not let myself complain (too much) about exercising. I keep my mind in the right place. I remind myself of how I feel when I am done. Those thoughts keep me going, keep me motivated," says Penszynski.

Penszynski also runs fitness challenges on Facebook and posts about her journey on my personal Facebook page and fitness/health page on Facebook, REVolution Fitness and Health. Penszynski knows she is not alone and nobody has to do go through MS alone. She wants to share her journey in the hopes she will inspire someone -- that someone will look at her one day and say they never quit, never gave up, because of her.

"That is the best gift in the world," Penszynski says. "If I can influence one person to get healthier, get moving, take care of their health, live their lives to the fullest, that is worth more than anything. I want to inspire and help as many people as I can to help them realize they can and will do what they set their minds to. Anything is possible."

The main reason Penszynski became a coach for Beachbody was to support and help others along on their journey. She wants to pay forward what has worked for her in her health journey. Even if she changes one life as a coach, she knows she will have succeeded.

"Support is key. Motivation from positive people is key. Knowing you have help is key," Penszynski says. "That is what keeps me going every single day. Hope. Helping someone through their journey, being an encourager, a mentor. Being a part of something so big and so positive keeps ME positive," says Penszynski.

Penszynski says she has met so many amazing fighters on MS pages on Facebook, and at live events like MS walks, fundraisers, etc. She plans on starting up a support group/MS fit club and a fit club for all in the near future as well, to keep people supported, hopeful, and living healthier, happier lifestyles. She also would love to do a fundraiser/half marathon for MS at some point.

"Exercise, good nutrition, support, attitude, determination, and keeping your 'why' in front of you at all times will get you where you want to go," she says. "Take care of your body and it will take better care of you! What you put in, you get out! Never, ever give up. We are all worth it."

When Portia O'Callaghan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on Super Bowl Sunday in 2004, she did not let that stop her from running.

"I have been a runner on and off my whole life, but mostly for fitness, not competitively," O'Callaghan says. "When I was diagnosed, I thought it was important to run while I still could, so I got more interested in it. I also thought it would keep me healthy, and I think it has. Since I've been diagnosed, I've run two marathons, five half-marathons, and countless shorter races. This year I'm running a 5K every month and hoping to PR (set a personal record) this fall."

Such a scenario might have seemed ridiculous when O'Callaghan, 39, began suffering from MS symptoms.

"My leg felt weak and I had never experienced anything like it before," she says. "I thought I had a virus or something so I went to the ER. The doctor told me I either had MS or meningitis. I asked, 'Which of those do I want to have?' The doctor said meningitis, but it turned out I had MS. He cried when he told me this, and I was really scared. When a doctor cries, you know it's bad."

It turns out that many people can have symptoms for years before they are diagnosed with MS. After her diagnosis, O'Callaghan was motivated to keep running because of her family. She says it is important to make healthy decisions because with each one she has the chance to live a normal life. She wants to stay healthy for her husband and their 9-year-old daughter.

"My husband is an ultrarunner and he inspires me every day," O'Callaghan says. "He gets up early, works eight hours at a bakery, then goes for crazy long runs in the afternoon. I have a wonderful, supportive running family in the Oiselle team, which is a Seattle-based women's running apparel company that has a team of 250 athletes -- mostly regular women like me, and some elite runners as well."

When O'Callaghan, who works as a user-experience designer, is not running, she enjoys her time with family and hiking. She tries to do core and strength exercises a few times a week. While O'Callaghan has been lucky that her MS symptoms haven't been more severe, she has experienced minor issues in balance, speech and fatigue.

"I became very motivated to eat healthier after having more fatigue in the past six months," she says. "I am mostly vegan and stay away from dairy, caffeine, sugar, and processed food. It sounded like a boring way to eat at first, but I feel great and already have less fatigue in the few months I've been eating this way. I also meditate every day for 10-30 minutes, which I think is great for calming the nervous system."

O' Callaghan writes about running with MS in a blog called Run Portia Run. She also recommends reading Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: An Evidence-Based Guide to Recovery to anyone who is newly diagnosed with MS.

Mark Van Meter was 21 when he received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Doctors told Van Meter that he could not exercise and that he had to stay out of the heat. That is a hard order to follow in Arizona.

"It was a pretty hard shock that from being super active to hearing a doctor say don't exercise, stay out of the heat," Van Meter said. "I mean, I am in Phoenix, Arizona. What does that mean?"

Van Meter, now a 51-year-old web developer for Wells Fargo, refused to sit around and wait to get better. He decided to exercise and go into the heat against his doctor's wishes and prove him wrong.

"Exercise at that point was walking from one side of the room to the other or going outside and walking 10 feet, touching each of my fingers with my thumb," Van Meter said. "For me, if I could see any improvement, that was a win."

It took Van Meter six months to recover from his first relapse. That's when Van Meter knew he could no longer wrestle or play baseball. Armed with a positive mindset and a determination to stay active, he made the switch to running.

Van Meter worked from walking 5k races all the way up to Ironman competitions, despite numerous relapses. Van Meter has persevered through all the relapses and a car accident during a triathlon with the hopes of qualifying for the ultimate Ironman competition: The Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

The Ironman World Championship is structured like every other Ironman event with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. The biggest difference is that these events take place throughout the treacherous terrains of Hawaii.

Three years ago, Van Meter started a support group called Active with MS. The focus of the group is for individuals with relapsing MS who want to stay active. Van Meter has also participated in the last four Bike for MS events.

Van Meter acknowledged that coping with MS would be a lot more difficult without having the love and support of his wife, Mariana.

"I have always been confident that my wife will be there," Van Meter said. "It's great to have a spouse that no matter what happens to you, they are going to be there."

Garth McLean was an actor in Los Angeles when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A doctor suggested trying yoga as a way to cope with the symptoms. McLean saw the benefits and became such a devoted practitioner of yoga that he decided to become an instructor. Here's his story of how it all unfolded:

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