People With Multiple Sclerosis Being Challenged To 'Do'

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People living with multiple sclerosis are being challenged to show what they can — not can't — do in the world.

Inspired by the late Olympic bronze medalist skier Jimmie Heuga, the Can Do Multiple Sclerosis organization has made September 22 "Can Do Day," a day where those with multiple sclerosis go out and prove to themselves and others they can tackle a certain activity.

Multiple sclerosis, a chronic and progressive disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, often results in symptoms like numbness, speech impairment, lack of balance and muscular coordination, blurred vision/blindness and severe fatigue.

Heuga, who won a bronze medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria in slalom, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 26 while still competing as an elite skier. Doctors told him he'd have to avoid strenuous physical activity for the rest of his life, believing it would make his symptoms worse. Instead, Heuga did things like set a world record for skiing one million vertical feet during 24 hours in Alyeska, Alaska.

Along the way he also created The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis (the precursor to Can Do Multiple Sclerosis) while developing a program of "physical activity, goal-setting and psychological motivation" for people with multiple sclerosis. Heuga passed away in 2010 at age 66.

A feature part of Can Do Day will be the photo pledge challenge, where those with multiple sclerosis can declare what they're going to do that day and solicit votes of support to earn prizes. The pledges who've entered the contest so far all seem to be approaching their multiple sclerosis with the same spirit as Heuga did.

"I pledge to smile my way thru cancer and MS. To show all around me that I am stronger than all of this. To do my best to make others aware of the struggles we with MS face daily without complaint," said one pledge identified as Cheryl C.

Another pledge, Kelly F., submitted a photo of herself on a modified bicycle with the line, "I can do everything I used to! Just in an updated way, like extra wheels on my bike! Getting out in a natural setting helps us all!"

Blaze Heuga, the son of Jimmie Heuga, says this is the exact type of spirit his father used to approach life.

"Always seizing a new challenge, my father faced each day with the can do spirit,” said Blaze in a press release. “He lived by the mantra that no matter the path laid out before you, you can climb to the top of the mountain."

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