OLYMPIAN, FATHER, PATIENT: LIVING WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
BY CURT SCHREINER
I grew up on the Sacandaga Lake in the Southern Adirondacks in upstate NY. As a young man, I was interested in outdoor pursuits and after seeing Biathlon at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid NY, I became addicted to the sport. Over the next 25 years I dedicated my life to pursuing the sport, a Winter Olympic event that combines cross-country skiing and shooting. With the support of my family, the US Biathlon Association, the US Army and the NY Army National Guard, I was able to enjoy a long career of international competition from 1985-2002. During that period I had the opportunity to represent the US in 3 Winter Olympic Games in 88, 92 and 94.
I started noticing MS symptoms in 2000 with weakness on my left side and lack of coordination in races that lasted more than an hour and when I was tired. I retired from competition in 2002 and was sent to Iraq for a year in late 2004 as the Commander of the 29th Personnel Services Detachment. While in Iraq I noted an increase in my weakness and I rationalized at the time that I was just getting out of shape and that daily temperatures in the 120s were the culprits.
After I returned home, I awoke one morning with eye pain and blurriness. Thinking I had conjunctivitis I went to an eye doctor where he determined my eyes were fine. After a brief neurological test, I was sent in for an MRI and 4 days later I was given the diagnosis of MS.
Since that time, I have noticed a marked decrease in my ability to perform athletically, even though my expectations are no longer at the level they once were. Any attempt I make at physical activity results in inability to perform, foot drop, weakness on my left side and blurry vision. Over the years I have tried many different ways to combat my symptoms including: acupuncture, cooling vests, Ampyra, cold showers, swimming and wearing less in the winter to try to stay cold.
None of these things helped me much; the most effective was immersion in water until my core temperature lowered, making me feel cold on a warm day. This makes me feel better for low level every day activities but does not allow me to do aerobic activities for more than 10 minutes without symptoms reappearing. I have been able to perform a moderate amount of strength training when well rested and cool and have been able to maintain my fitness that way.
Since being diagnosed I have been on the disease modifying drug Rebif. I only suffer occasional side effects. Due to my tolerance of this drug, I have not attempted any others since they all do basically the same thing. I have recently tried the drug Amprya in hopes that it would enable me to run effectively, but it has had little beneficial effect even though I know some people are getting positive results.