Life with MS

My Story: Sometimes it Takes Strength to Stop

By Dan Digmann

By Dan Digmann
I promised my loving wife, Jennifer, I would never do it again, but my left foot made me a liar. I’m sure she cried as another strange car pulled into the driveway and dropped me off at our home. As I walked through the front door with my face covered in blood, she knew what I had done.
That was the day I stopped running.
On that fateful evening, I was about a mile into my regular four-mile run when my MS-weakened left foot clipped a crack in the sidewalk. Inertia propelled my head and hands forward and smashed them into a concrete slab. “Ouch,” I whispered as I lay there face down, but I knew I was okay.
Okay, but bleeding just above my right eye. Again. This wasn’t the first time I had tripped while on a run. I needed the ER and stitches the last time. Still, I said, “To hell with MS!” and kept running. Even ran at the Crim Festival of Races, where I finished ninth out of 31 runners in my age group and 166th out of more than 750 runners in the 8K race. And I have relapsing-remitting MS.
But falling this time was different. As I walked home, I started thinking that this is no longer worth the risks to me and, more importantly, to Jennifer. She has secondary-progressive MS, and I am her primary caregiver. Whatever happens to me happens to her. She knew this, and it’s the reason why, “Pick up your feet,” were always the last words she said each time I went running.
On that walk home, I realized that I no longer had the drive to push myself to run. In fact, I never intended to be a runner. I actually picked up running after I was diagnosed with MS. I started walking, and that led to running, which lead to running 5Ks and consequently became a borderline obsession.
Perhaps, I never stopped because I feared if I did, I was letting MS get the best of me. “Don’t let MS win!” But when a concerned stranger stopped his car to care for an injured runner and offered me a ride home, I knew I had reached the end.

I didn’t give up on myself. I didn’t give into the disease. Rather, I gave myself permission to stop.
This is a reality people living with MS wrestle with daily. No matter how long we’ve had it, we push ourselves. Then, we keep wondering and worrying if we stop doing something, are we just quitting? Will we lose the ability to do the things we enjoy?
Sometimes, yes, we will. But that’s okay, because it often opens doors to new activities we never would have tried if we spent all our time wondering and worrying. I stopped running, but this gave me time to earn my master’s degree, continue caring for my wife, work full-time, and regularly stretch and walk.
We all should keep fighting MS. But even more, we all need to keep our eyes open for the new opportunities that await us. We just have to take charge, give ourselves permission to stop, and then move forward with our lives.