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:

When Harriet Black heard a neurologist say she had multiple sclerosis, she was determined to make sure she would move with wheels attached to a bicycle instead of a wheelchair.

"For me it felt like the floor was coming out from under me," Black said. "I wondered how many steps do I have left in me?"

That was 17 years ago. Black is still moving, both on her feet and on her bike. Black, now a 63-year-old who owns a manufacturing business with her husband, knew she had to change her diet, exercise routine and even her attitude to effectively fight MS.

"It turned out for me a blessing in disguise," Black said of the MS diagnosis, "because at age 47, I wasn't in as good of shape as I am right now."

After the MS diagnosis, Black said she eliminated as much saturated fat from her diet as possible. She also started taking nutritional supplements that help eliminates heavy metals from the body.

The supplements and change in attitude were courtesy of Dr. Michael Schachter in Suffern, New York. Dr. Schachter’s practice focuses on naturally cleansing the body of the toxins that can exacerbate diseases like MS. Dr. Schachter advised Black to have her amalgam dental work removed. Black said she was also exposed to a few viewpoints on life that changed the way she saw the world.

While diet and supplements helped Black, she knew she also had to reshape her exercise habits. An avid biker, Black and her husband, Bob, just completed the 2014 New York City Triathlon as part of the Race to Stop MS triathlon team. The 2014 event was also a personal best for Black, as she swam, biked and ran her way to a combined time of 3 hours and 52 minutes.

Black has raised more than $4,500 for the event. The 2014 triathlon was Black’s fifth triathlon; a feat that could not have been accomplished without a stroke of luck in registering for her first triathlon in 2010.

"When you wanted to register for the Tri, you go online and keep entering your name until you get in," Black said. "I get on and Bob is still trying to get on. I fill out my form and five minutes later it says ‘Sorry, all filled up.’ Bob never got in."

Black has also dedicated her personal time to helping people newly diagnosed with MS. She has talked to dozens of individuals at length about their fears, while giving them a glimpse into her life and her way of thinking. Black is working on creating a website where she can tell her experiences with MS, while helping those newly diagnosed cope with the initial shock and fear that comes with MS.

"It doesn’t have to be scary," Black said. "We can become fearless, and we can do good work."

The only thing that could have stopped 47-year-old Jeffrey Zaniker from completing the Race Across America bike event was a herd of cows in Utah.

"We got stuck behind a couple of farmers on horseback driving cows," Zaniker said. "There were about 200-300 cows and four riders on horseback, and the road was tied up on both sides."

Zaniker, an Accenture executive in Indianapolis, managed to work through the livestock logjam and finished the 3,000-mile trips that began June 14 in Oceanside, California, and ended six days later in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Race Across America is one of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's projects to raise money and awareness. Zaniker was diagnosed with MS in 2002, and his Zaniker's father, Don, had passed away from an aggressive form of MS in 1987.

"It was such a rapid deterioration from being perfectly healthy, working, supporting a family to being completely disabled and in a wheelchair," Zaniker said about his father.

Zaniker, like his father, was a salesman at the time of their diagnosis. While in a sales role for Accenture, Zaniker had to travel four to five days a week, including a couple of stints throughout Europe. The stress of travel and working took a toll on Zaniker's health.

"I think the thing that was most difficult was taking care of myself," Zaniker said. "It was tough to keep up any kind of physical regime and take care of myself. That is where it got to the point where enough is enough."

When Zaniker told Accenture of his condition, he was transferred to the managing director role, which called for significantly reduced travel and less hours. Since the transition, Zaniker has lost 40 pounds and is less stressed.

Zaniker and a friend, who also has MS, came up with the idea to create a bike team to compete in the Race Across America, an event that was launched in 1982. Zaniker was part of an eight-rider team, called Gears to a Cure, that has raised about $90,000 since April. Of the 23 members involved with the team, nobody is closer to Zaniker than brother John.

"He was one of the strongest supporters," Zaniker said of his brother.

Jeff and John Zaniker rode the second shift together. They were on the bikes for 10 minutes, then off for 10 minutes for two hours stretches. The Gears to a Cure team biked the 3,000 course in six days. When Zaniker crossed the finishline, he was greeted by his wife and three children.

"You are going to have to figure out how to cope with it," Zaniker said. "Your family goes on the journey with you and deal with the fact that slowly, little by little, your health is going to deteriorate to varying degrees. I think it would be very difficult to deal with this disease if you didn't have that support network."

Matt Bullard loves cycling, but after a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, he wasn't sure if he could continue his passion. His doctor told him that it would be beneficial to stay active, so Matt kept pumping the pedals on his bike. He has even upgraded to tackling a triathlon and continues to help an MS charity in the process. Here is his story:

Mallak Anani is a senior at the University of Michigan with hopes of one day working in politics or government. She spent the past semester interning in Washington, D.C., on a school-sponsored program.

A Michigan native, Anani was also a three-sport athlete in high school, starring in volleyball, basketball and track. She played libero for the volleyball team and drew interest from Division II schools, but had her heart on becoming a Wolverine.

"I do wish I had the opportunity to play volleyball at the college level, but playing for a D-1 school meant I needed to fit certain criteria and I, unfortunately, am not nearly as tall as most girls are on Division I volleyball teams," Anani said. "My coaches were connecting with Division II colleges, but I told them I wasn't interested because I was set on going to Michigan and wouldn't have traded that education for an athletic scholarship."

During her sophomore year at Michigan, Anani discovered that she has Multiple Sclerosis. She was just 18 at the time, and the early months after the diagnosis were grueling.

"I was taking a medication that my body rejected for the eight months that I was on it, leaving me sick for two to three days per week,” she said. “I had fevers of 103 degrees, nausea -- I was unable to move out of bed and felt hopeless. After my doctor realized my body was rejecting the medication, she switched meds, and now things are much better.”

Anani still experiences symptoms of numbness and pains in her head, plus blurred vision, dizziness and fatigue, among other unpredictable maladies.

But she has stayed active in her pursuit of studies and career path, in addition to carrying on the athletic commitment that drove her in high school.

Anani played varsity for multiple years on all three of her teams, winning MVP of the volleyball squad and earning a nomination in her hometown, Dearborn, as female athlete of the year. Her basketball coach also deemed her the team's best defensive player, and she won an all-city award in track.

Though the team element of her athletic experience has transitioned to more individual exercise -- and she had to give up the promising opportunity to play college volleyball -- Anani keeps up with her hoops and running.

"I play a lot of basketball at the gym and work out on cardio machines like the elliptical and stair master, use weight training machines and do bodyweight exercises,” she said.

Anani was also able, for the previous month, to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which requires fasting for most of the day.

After the initial complications that accompanied her MS diagnosis, Anani considers her daily routine mostly normal again. She expressed particular gratitude to her father and older sister (one of many siblings) for guiding her through the valleys of a sometimes debilitating ailment.

If you're a pickup player at Michigan, watch out for Anani on the hardwood next year. Almost two years post-diagnosis, she's still taking both the girls and boys to school.

Not long after giving birth to triplets -- two girls and one boy -- Susie Jamharian found out that she had Multiple Sclerosis.

"When my fingertips were getting numb -- when I first noticed it -- I thought I was changing too many diapers,” she said.

Jamharian grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to San Diego, and then settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband. Diagnosed with MS in 2004, she has taken to the pool to stay fit.

"I feel so much stronger in the water and feel so much better once I finish my laps," Jamharian said. "Also, I don’t feel as many aches and pains in the water as I do on land."

Wanting to contribute toward an organization that fights MS, Jamharian came across Swim MS, which is run through the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.

MSAA started Swim for MS in 2008 to raise research funds while promoting athletic activity for people afflicted with the disease. Participants challenge themselves to individual swimming goals and secure donations from friends and family for their efforts.

Those who swim can set their own schedules and goals for swimming a certain number of laps. Swim for MS participants have also hosted pool parties, cannonball jumping contests and synchronized swimming events for the cause.

Some teams have also challenged themselves to group swimming events for MSAA fundraising.

Jamharian stuck with the individual lap swimming initiative, setting a goal of 1,000 laps to complete in one month.

"For several years, I’ve been wanting to do something for MS to raise money, but I was afraid I might get overheated by doing a bike ride or whatnot," she said. “But then I switched medications, and for some weird reason I got this email talking about a swim fundraiser. And I felt very apprehensive about doing it because I was like 'who’s going to support me?'"

A friend helped Jamharian get started, and the swimmer sent out an email to her friends in mid-March. Jamharian began the swimming commitment in April and finished her laps in 12 days, far outpacing her original plan. She raised $3,600 along the way. The donors' generosity surprised Jamharian, helping her overcome the initial concern that few people would support her. Acquaintances that she didn't even ask donated to the cause after hearing about it from mutual friends.

"You kind of don't want to do something like this because you don't think you’re going to get the support, but you’d just be amazed,” she said.

Though she once temporarily lost vision in her left eye and still experiences the numbness in her fingertips, Jamharian considers her MS mild and does not like to address it around her husband and three kids, who are now 13. But her efforts have helped raise money and awareness for people whom the disease has relegated to wheelchairs and crutches.

Heather Ward has trouble slowing down.

While studying interior design -- and anyone familiar with art or architecture knows that the major alone is consuming enough -- at Mount Ida College, Ward worked a full-time job as a bookkeeper for Barnes & Noble. She had also been a cheerleader from age 12 in Pop Warner football through high school, when she was team captain.

But a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at 28 gave Ward no choice but to take a step back. That was 14 years ago as Ward lost feeling in the right side of her body and could not speak clearly. Still, she continued working at Maugel Architects in Boston, where she has ascended to being director of interior architecture in her 16 years at the firm.

Ward, who had participated in Boston's MS Walk before her own diagnosis, found new meaning to the cause while undertaking a personal recovery. In 2013, she transitioned from the MS Walk to MuckFest MS, a Tough Mudder-style obstacle course that raises money for MS research.

There are events in 10 cities nationwide, and the Boston MuckFest lasts two days in April. Participants race through a muddy 5K course complete with rope swinging and other athletic challenges.

"[MuckFest] just seemed like a fun event versus doing a 10K walk, and at the time when we were first introduced to it, I was doing CrossFit with my husband," Ward said. "Then unfortunately, right before the event, I had a relapse."

The relapse forced her to take five months off work and stop driving for three months. She still struggles with speech and memory when under stress.

“My feeling in my hands has not completely come back, so doing things like cooking or even doing my makeup or my hair or taking a shower sometimes is a little difficult," she said.

Nonetheless, Ward toiled through the MuckFest course despite taking some tumbles and having to skip the occasional obstacle. Her team, the "Muckin' A's,” raised more than $8,000 with 40 people last year. Ward and the Muckin' A's tripled their efforts this year by raising $27,000 with a team of 108.

"We were the second-largest team in Boston and the third-largest in the country," Ward said.

Although Ward has made great strides in recovery since her relapse, the 2014 MuckFest still presented the challenge of frigid Boston weather.

Ward said that MuckFest can only be held in April because outdoor spaces are booked in the summer. As a result, contestants must compete through 40-degree, rainy conditions.

"It was so cold out there people were suffering from hypothermia," she said.

Ward specifically recalled, though seemingly fondly, crawling under a tarp over cold, muddy water as AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared in the background.

Meanwhile, she's back to working part-time at Maugel and is grateful for the support of her boss, plus her husband and parents. She has personally raised more $100,000 for MS research over the years and set a team goal of $40,000 for next year’s MuckFest.

MS may impede her work and daily habits, but for Ward, it's really just muck in the way.

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Jenn Cherrey was 23 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Although Cherrey was a sprinter in her youth, she became less active in her late teens and early 20s. Cherrey admits after her diagnosis, she was not quick to make healthier decisions.

"When I found out I had MS, I probably did the exact opposite of being fit," Cherrey says. "I did all the wrong things."

Cherrey, now 41, turned things around about four years ago. She stopped smoking on her 37th birthday, June 17, 2010 (she started smoking at age 14), and went for her first "serious" run that morning. Along with running, Cherry started biking and willed herself into shape.

"For me, being active, especially having running in my life, has been a way for me to kick MS in the shins a little bit," she says. "I keep doing what I want to do and what I like to do. I can keep my body strong, so it doesn't fail me as much as it should."

Cherrey, who works in compliance for Credit Suisse, has run seven marathons, along with several long distance races. Her fastest marathon time of 4:40:02 came at the New Jersey Marathon. Cherrey has two more upcoming marathons and a triathlon on her schedule. The Annapolis, Md., resident also has a history of long-distance bike rides, including the recent Bike MS: Chesapeake Challenge. For the two-day ride, Cherrey did a metric century (day one) and a 50-mile trek (day two).

"I don't have any race wins, but for me, finishing is a pretty big accomplishment," she says of her ironwoman history.

Outside of work and racing, Cherrey gets paddle boarding/yoga instruction from Kate Grove. The classes consist of about an hour of paddleboarding involving such techniques as how to stand up, how to move, how to get across waves and how to turn. For the last half hour, Grove gives the students yoga instruction on paddleboards.

"It works your core more than yoga because you have to use all your core strength to stay balanced," Cherrey says. "Balance is one of the things affected by MS. We do a lot of planks and stuff to strengthen while you're on the board."

Along with trouble balancing, Cherrey notes MS affects her ability to walk in a straight line and causes her foot to drop unexpectedly. Cherrey also has trouble running in heat.

Biking is one of the easier exercises on Cherrey's body due to the built-in seat and breeze. While Cherrey's muscles are challenged, the wind cools her body off.

Cherrey also finds a cooling aspect in paddleboarding.

"If I fall in the water, it's kind of a nice way to cool my body down," she says. "There's a downside to having trouble balancing, but the water's a nice break during the workout."

When Cherrey was married this May in Oxford, Md., she and her partner Jen Bornemann (yep, that's right, Jenn and Jen) did not ask for gifts. Instead, the couple asked for donations. Guests could donate to their choice of three organizations: The Girls on the Run of the Greater Chesapeake, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the National MS Society. Cherrey and Bornemann also hosted a "Wedding 5K+1 Run" (with T-shirts made) to highlight the charities. The wedding raised $1500 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, $1650 for Girls on the Run of the Greater Chesapeake, and almost $6000 for the National MS Society Maryland Chapter.

Cherrey attributes Bornemann as a voice pushing her to challenge herself.

"We sign up for races together, train together and she is currently teaching me triathlon swim technique, so I don't drown in September," Cherrey says.

Cherrey's father also suffers from MS. Bornemann senses her wife's determination may stem from that family connection.

"I think that with every run, ride, swim, paddle and strength session, she has her dad with her," Bornemann says. "Unfortunately, his MS has worsened and she brings his spirit, influence and love with her at every workout and event.

Cherrey's MS is currently relapsing/remitting and her active lifestyle limits the chance of any major exacerbations. Still, such instances as fatigue in heat are common and must be dealt with accordingly. Jenn is not one to make excuses. Instead, she troops on.

"Jenn is incredibly tough, in every sense," Bornemann says. "She does not often talk about her MS, as she doesn't like to burden others, but I do know when it's effects are taking their toll."

Jenn Cherrey has suffered from MS for 18 years, but the word suffer should be used loosely. It has not stopped her from living out her everyday desires. One of those desires is kicking MS in the shins.

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