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Multiple Sclerosis Won’t Stop This Woman From Running Ultra Marathons

Deanna Tysdal credits going long for keeping her symptoms at bay.

It started with her thumb. In 2005, Deanna Tysdal’s finger went numb when she was playing volleyball with her friends in Kansas City, Kansas. She shook off the sensation and finished the game, thinking she must have hit the ball funny.

Then the next week, her pointer finger went numb. Then her whole hand lost feeling.

“I knew what was happening,” Tysdal, who’s 41, told Runner’s World. “Because the same thing happened to my brother seven years earlier.”

When Tysdal was 14, her 19-year-old brother, Eric, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that attacks the central nervous system and causes a host of symptoms, including severely impaired muscle movement. At the time of his diagnosis, Eric had just started college.

“I had always looked up to him, because he was so smart and athletic,” Tysdal said. “But the disease took over.”

The progression of Eric’s MS was painful for Tysdal to watch. She remembers him losing function of his legs, then having to scoot, seated, up the stairs, using his arms to pull himself up. By age 25, he was wheelchair-bound. In the years that followed, he had difficulty speaking, and eventually was forced to use a feeding tube and catheter. His devastating situation was a big reason Tysdal left her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, to move to Kansas City after college.

“I needed to distance myself from it,” she said.

But when she experienced the numbness in her hand a few years later, her head flashed with visions of herself in the same situation. She went to see the doctor, who first thought she was just experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. But after that test turned out negative, she underwent a spinal tap, which confirmed her suspicions: She had MS.

While the disease has no cure, she was prescribed medicine to keep her symptoms—including muscle pain, fatigue, and dizziness—at bay. Her doctors warned her that MS was an unpredictable illness, and loss of muscle function could be sudden.

“My legs could be working one day, then they could stop working the next,” she said. “I decided then and there that as long as they are working, I’m going to use them.”

Read on: Multiple Sclerosis Won’t Stop This Woman From Running Ultra Marathons

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