Women on the Move: Cheryl Hile
“I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in October 2006. Within a year, demyelination had weakened the electrical signal from my brain to my right shin. Because of that, I constantly felt like I was going to stub my toes while running. During a race, I started tripping and falling, and finished the run with bloody knees. Soon after, I learned the falling was due to foot drop, a common symptom of MS. I wanted to find a way to keep running but my neurologist told me to ‘lower my expectations.’ Those words did not settle well with me, so I searched on my own for a solution.
“I was fortunate to find an awesome orthotist who customized a carbon ankle-foot orthotic (AFO) for me. It holds my toes up at a six degree angle so I no longer trip over my own foot. It is because of this that I have been able to continue running. Eleven years have passed since my diagnosis and I have completed 44 marathons! This is important to me because running is a physical link to the days before I had MS.
“I am completely aware I am luckier than many people with MS. I have maintained relatively good health and am able to keep doing my sport. It is, however, significantly more difficult now. I am much slower than before and sometimes it is hard to move fluently. My ability is compromised not only by foot drop but also by other exacerbations that have affected my right thigh. I can only lift my leg a few inches off the ground and my entire limb feels numb and heavy. On bad days, it feels like I am pulling it through mud. Consequently, when I run, all effort is done on the left side of my body and my right side drags along to keep pace.
“In spite of it, my mantra is ‘I do what I can and I never give up.’ These words motivate me to keep registering for races and encourages me to push myself all the way to the finish line. I completed a big goal last year of becoming the first person with MS to run a marathon on all contents, and yes, that includes Antarctica! Further, I ran them all in one year. Throughout my adventure, people with MS worldwide reached out to me. They were encouraged to keep on running or inspired to start an exercise program. I am honored that my story has motivated people to do what they can and never give up. And I'm not done. I always have ideas in my head to do more for MS awareness stay tuned.”