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."