When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in June 2013, I was confused, angry and in disbelief. Growing up, I had been an athlete. I ran track for over 12 years, played collegiate volleyball, became a cheerleader and dancer and ran cross country in college. I worked my way to being captain of my college cheer team and was awarded Female Athlete of the Year. I didn't consider myself a person who was at risk for any medical condition.
I remember leaving the neurologist's office and running to my car crying my eyes out and trying to understand what was happening and what to do next. After a few days of being depressed, confused and anxious, I decided to live my life like I had before the diagnosis. My body felt fine, so why play into being sick or disabled?
Despite my diagnosis of MS, I remained active and by 2018, I made the plan to get on the fitness stage. But then the pandemic hit. The city shut down. My gym shut down. Undeterred, I decided to turn my second bedroom into a mini gym. I bought rubber floor mats, a squat rack, Olympic bar, weight plates, dumbbells - everything needed for a home gym. I was committed to reaching a goal that was over twenty five years in the making. I didn't know when I would be competing, but I knew I wanted to compete before the end of 2022 - which didn't leave me much time.
When I finally decided to enter a show, it was with the OCB, a natural bodybuilding organization where there would be an even playing field. Because of my diagnosis of MS, I needed to ask my neurologist to complete a medical exemption form with my diagnosis and the medications I was taking. And that was before the stress of the polygraph test. I started questioning what I had gotten myself into.
In November, 2022 I entered the OCB Franco Classic. As the day approached, I became more nervous and unsure of how I would do. I didn't tell anyone I was competing. My closest friends and family knew, but that was it. I just couldn't bring myself to make the official announcement. I kept everything quiet until a week and a half before the show when I posted on social media that I was entering a competition. I had no expectations other than to have fun and to do my best.
I entered novice, 35+ and open in the bikini category. The day of the competition, I reminded myself to remain present and enjoy every moment because it goes by so quickly. I walked on stage, nervous and unsure and to my surprise I placed 2nd in all three of my entries! It was like being in a dream and was one of the best accomplishments of my life.
I know some can treat entering a competition as something to be checked off their bucket list, but to me this is a lifestyle that will be vital to my long-term health and independence. This experience has taught me that I am stronger mentally and physically than I thought I was. It taught me to never doubt myself. I feel stronger today than I did twenty five years ago and I would say that I'm in the best shape of my life. I can't wait to see how my body transforms over this next year as I prepare once again to get on stage.
Let's get it. LET'S GOOOOOO!