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Melissa's Perseverance Story

Hard on Heels | Melissa Perseverance Story
Hard on Heels | Melissa Perseverance Story

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!

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