Sitting in the lounge at The Blennerhassett, she looks perfectly healthy. Fashionable, slender and sporting a healthy glow from running in the sun, she laughs with an infections melody about her disease. Whipping out a photo from her phone, she taps on her screen to point out what her disease actually looks like on the inside. “See, if you saw this on me, you would definitely believe that I was sick,” she quipped.
The image on the phone showed brain lesions from a person with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a disease affecting more than 2.3 million people worldwide, and Misti Sims is a local resident battling daily. Although battling any disease is noble, tackling it head on makes someone a warrior. Misti is a warrior.
She was diagnosed with the disease on Feb. 11 a few years ago after going to the hospital for paralysis in her left side. Her appointment was at 11 a.m. and by 4:30 the hospital had called.
“If the hospital calls you back the same day, you can pretty much expect bad news. The diagnosis was fast,” she said
After her diagnosis, she immersed herself in books about MS. Not wanting to turn to the Internet, she spent a whole weekend educating herself. She was afraid that she would find only dismal diagnoses if she went online. Her decisions to educate herself brought her to her desire to educate others.
“My family cried more than I did – I thought I would be wheelchair bound until I started reading more about the disease. MS is different in every person, and I want to encourage everyone to learn about their MS.”
For Misti, her coping method became raising awareness and money for the disease. During her first year of diagnoses, she created a non-profit in the Mid-Ohio Valley to benefit those suffering from the disease. However, she didn’t stop there.
As a self-described dreamer and over-achiever, Misti signed up to run the prestigious New York City half-marathon at the suggestion of a client. Once again, overcoming tremendous odds, she was chosen as 1 out of 30 to run for the National MS Society’s team.
She gave herself four months to train. Her background in running was fresh, but her desire to run was deep and focused. She credits her supportive trainer in helping her achieve her goals. As someone diagnosed with MS, everyday is a blessing that allows her to move. Running a half-marathon is nearly unheard of.
“Before this, if I was running, I was being chased. I would not have considered myself a runner. I wanted to challenge myself – challenge myself to something great – and prove not the world, but to myself that I could do it,” she said.
The first time she ran 13.1 miles was the same day she crossed the finish line in New York City. The feeling of crossing the finish line is nearly incomparable for her, and each mile ran was dedicated to someone who helped her on her journey to the end.
“I run for those who can’t. There will come a day when I can’t run, but I’m not there yet. I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I did that,’” she said.
During the past few months, Misti has slowly increased her runs and recently ran the longest run of her life. This 20-mile run is leading up to her grand finale. This run was pivotal. This November, in less than one month, Misti will cross the finish line at The New York City Marathon as a member of The National MS Society’s team and join the small percentage of Americans who call themselves marathon runners.
“Finishing the 20 miles was amazing. In fact, the whole run was amazing. I had a clear head and worked on a lot of the mental part of training while I just reminded myself to put one foot in front of the other. It was honestly the best feeling. I finally knew I could do this. I felt proud. Proud because so many people are pulling for me. I also felt like if one person with MS heard my story, then maybe that would encourage them to at least get out of bed,” she said.
As crazy as it sounds, I was meant to get MS. I was meant to have the pain, fatigue, cognitive disorders, tremors, and all of the other not so fun stuff that comes along with this disease. I was meant to have it because God knew I would do something about it.
However, her journey isn’t over there. Misti is now currently working on earning her certification as a Life Coach. She will specialize in helping people with MS. Nearly five years since she was diagnosed, Misti feels that this is her calling in life. Deep in her soul, she always knew she would be okay. She could survive this. Some people don’t feel that way, and many people with MS fall into deep depressions.
“As crazy as it sounds, I was meant to get MS. I was meant to have the pain, fatigue, cognitive disorders, tremors, and all of the other not so fun stuff that comes along with this disease. I was meant to have it because God knew I would do something about it. He knew I would get up everyday and take full advantage of my life, fight for my life and use my life as a story to help others,” Misti said.
It’s hard to image a life being grateful for a disease that is often associated with a painful and debilitated life. Misti is grateful.
“I would never change my diagnosis because my diagnosis changed me, and for the better. My diagnosis is also going to change someone else’s life and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Misti is still raising money for the National MS Society, and is a little over halfway to meeting her goal. To donate to this cause, visit her page and read more about her cause. Help cheer #mightymisti across the finish line.
Liv is a W.Va. based wedding photographer consumed by wanderlust and seeing the beauty of those in love. She believes that to create beautiful images, she has to see beauty in everything she photographs. Liv is a teacher, wife, daughter, indulger of all things Disney and unabashedly obsessed with her fur-baby Henry.
Photography by the lovely Liv Hefner