Kristine Lanning: Making Waves is Integral to Recovery
In 2008 Kristine Lanning of Raleigh, NC started taking daily aquatic exercise classes. After 11 months, she could already see an improvement in her MS. Here is Kristine's story.
It is May 2009, and during the past few months, I have felt the cloak of fatigue sliding off my body. I have more energy and strength. My balance is better. These improvements are in large part due to the aquatic exercise class I faithfully participated in for the past eleven months. My old self is emerging. I am not well, but I am encouraged. I have hope.
In January 2008, my daughter Sasha drove me to a swimsuit shop, because I did not have the energy to drive the two miles. Once there, I had difficulty concentrating. I felt the horror of wearing a bathing suit over a bloated body with withered muscles. My fit body of four years ago was a distant dream. Multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, and the medications to treat excruciating pain and other symptoms had taken a severe toll. I was a wide shadow of my former self.
Sasha asked what size I wore, but I wasn’t sure. I just hoped something might fit. I was already exhausted. I sat down on the bench in the handicapped dressing room and let her choose suits. I thought a one-piece with a slenderizing Lycra panel would be best to hold in my stubborn belly fat. Sasha struggled with me to pull up the suit. The flesh bubbling over the top was disheartening. She helped me try two more suits; neither looked good. I was crashing, shaking with fatigue, and wanted to leave. Sasha cajoled me into trying just one more. She held up a tankini. I felt old, and the thought of wearing a suit obviously designed for a youthful body brought tears to my eyes. Sasha touched my shoulder sympathetically and reassured me that I was safe in the dressing room. I pulled on the top. The fabric was less tight and clinging, and the cut was slightly looser. I pulled on the bottom, and it nicely tucked under the top. I looked in the mirror and took a quiet sigh of relief. My physical and emotional energies were sapped, so I wore my jeans and coat on top of the suit as we checked out.
Months went by as I built the resolve to add a new activity to my life. I felt worn out by frequent medical tests and doctor visits. I was also concerned about financial burdens. Finally in July 2008, I decided to go to one class per week at the City of Raleigh’s Pullen Aquatic Center. I was put at ease when I was greeted by friendly staff, saw a lifeguard dedicated to the therapy pool, and noticed the water was frequently checked for chemical levels. Jean, a certified instructor, was caring and professional. She noted all of my conditions and watched me closely throughout the class. The program was designed by the Arthritis Foundation to be gentle, consisting of walking and exercising muscles and joints under the water. However, that first class was extremely difficult. Simply walking the length of the pool was a struggle as my body pitched back and forth in the water. The exercises felt like wrestling with molasses. Jean noticed the fatigue on my face and suggested I quit for the day. With only a few minutes left I toughed it out. One day I became dizzy in the pool. Always vigilant, Jean jumped in before I slipped under the water. Pool staff brought a special wheelchair to take me from the pool to the car.
My friend Rebecca provided rides to the pool. She swam countless laps while I sloshed through my exercises. The two of us developed a routine of eating lunch afterward. Carol, Phyllis, Vara, Lucy, and others became my buddies in the class. I introduced the pool to Kelli, a fibromyalgia friend. She aptly described the experience as a complete body massage. The class doubled as a social outlet that I so dearly needed.
I rigorously stuck to the once-a-week exercise schedule, because I recognized how it provided physical, psychological and social benefits in my personal journey. I could now stand on my own against the lapping water; and the molasses was reduced to resistance. With some movements I felt like a ballerina. This spring the MS Society awarded me a scholarship. It enabled me to increase the number of my aquatic exercise sessions. Each session compounded the benefit of the one before. I soon experienced higher levels of strength, balance, and energy which allowed me to participate in more activities, which created a healthy upward spiral. Making waves is integral toward the recovery of my life!