My story: One step ahead of MS
Mark SladeArticle from March 2020 edition of Intouch eNewsletter

MS Mildura Mega Swim event organiser Mark Slade has been living with MS since his early twenties. Now in his late 50s, he is a powerhouse of positivity and inspiration. We caught up with him to find out what drives him.

Can you tell us a bit about your early years with MS?
I was diagnosed with MS in 1983. I was in and out of a wheelchair and at one stage I was blind. At another time I was totally paralysed from the waist down. Another time I was paralysed down my left-hand side. MS plays tricks on you. After a couple of episodes, I ended up in a chair, the muscle deterioration was really bad - there was hardly anything in my legs. A friend of mine owned a gym and I started working out at the gym, and my idea was to increase my muscle tone so every time I had an attack, it wouldn’t be as much of a deterioration had I not built up my muscles. To me it made sense! So that’s what I did, and it worked. My legs stayed nice and strong. When I got back out of the chair, it didn’t take as long to get up and walk.

How did you become involved with the Mega Swim?
When I moved to Mildura, I started swimming. One day when I was swimming I thought, “hang on, we can make some money here for MS?” and I decided I wanted to have a swimathon to raise money for MS and when I rang up the MS centre they told me that a lady called Carol Cooke had just started the Mega Swim in Melbourne. They put me in contact with Carol. I think we made about $10,000 the first year. Then a few years later we tried to put on another one, but people weren’t that interested. Afterwards they started asking, “when are you going to have another one?” So, two years after that, we had another one and we raised $10,000.

How did it go this year?
We raised $14,500. The pool was donated to me for 24 hours, their swim club gave me the swim club rooms, then the coffee guy came and brought his van and he sat there for 24 hours selling coffee. The burger van came along, two choirs came and sang for this one, and a friend of mine owns the Apex Caravan Park and they have an outdoor movie screen, so they put that up for me and we had movies overnight, we even watched “Jaws!”

How do you live well with MS?
I watch what I eat, I keep fit and stay positive. Also, living in Mildura you’ve got sunshine and great people. It’s a great lifestyle. When we had a support group here, I said, how about next meeting, we talk about something good we’ve done instead of always talking about the pain and the fatigue? It’s nice to hear something positive.

Do you have any advice for someone newly diagnosed with MS?
Look forward, it’s a new lifestyle. Don’t think it’s all doom and gloom. When I was diagnosed, I was crying all the time. I thought it was the end of the world. But when I look back on it now, I see it changed my whole life for the better. MS brought something else out of me and pushed me further. In the past, you were told not to exercise, you asked doctors questions and they never had any answers. Back when I was in my early twenties asked a doctor, “how long am I going to live?” and he said, “you’ll be fine, you could even make it to 60!” I’m 59 now! The way I look at it, as long as you’re sensible and if you find you’re getting too fatigued, just cut back. It doesn’t mean give up, just cut back and work out what you can do.

What drives you?
Being a mentor to newly diagnosed people - it’s not all doom and gloom. The main thing is that I want to stay one step ahead of MS. If I keep running, the MS can’t catch me. I want to get a running shirt that says, “one step ahead of MS.”

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