By Renee Larr
In her career as a massage therapist at the Indiana College of Sports and Medical Massage, Carmel resident Elizabeth Bradshaw has relied on her body to help ease her clients’ pain. So, what happens when you’re diagnosed with a disease that can cause shaking, weakness and blurred vision? If you’re Bradshaw, you fight back hard enough to run a half marathon in personal-record time.
Bradshaw recounts her May 23, 2015, diagnoses with multiple sclerosis.
“It was the week before Memorial Day last year. I went out of town the weekend prior, to Denver, and I came back Sunday night,” she said. “Monday morning I went to the gym to do my usual routine. By Monday afternoon, I started to feel extreme fatigue as if my energy hit a brick wall. I have never felt that tired before, but I thought I just needed some rest. Tuesday I was a little off balance, not to mention my fatigue came back. By Wednesday, I started running into things. Next thing you know, my vision started to go off a little bit. My focus was a little delayed.”
By that Saturday, Bradshaw was experiencing double vision and what she perceived to be vertigo. Her mother took her to an immediate care facility, where she was told she needed to go to the emergency room.
“I got sent over to St. Vincent in Fishers. I had EKG and an X-ray before falling into two seizures just as they were putting the IV in for the brain MRI,” Bradshaw said. “I go into a brain MRI and not even 15 minutes later the doctor comes running in. The doctor told me he was going to give me 1,000 milligrams of steroids and that my brain was highly inflamed.”
The doctor told Bradshaw he believed she had multiple sclerosis and they would be transporting her to the neurology unit of St. Vincent hospital on 86th Street. She was given several rounds of steroids to control her brain swelling.
Most people want to know how the got the disease. Not Bradshaw. She wanted to know what she could start doing to stay healthy.
“Instead of saying, ‘Woe is me’ and crying, my attitude was, ‘Well, what’s next? What do I do?’” she said. “He told me to keep staying positive, stay healthy, keep running and to focus on doing those things.”
And that is just what Bradshaw has done. She began researching alternative methods of treating her disease rather than using medication and quickly realized diet plays a huge role. She also signed herself up to run the 2016 500 Festival Mini Marathon, a race she had previously run in 2014, to mark the May 23 one-year anniversary of the diagnosis.
“I started to learn things about what I could do as far as natural treatments because I didn’t want to take any medication,” Bradshaw said. “I immediately got straight to the grocery store and started shopping for anti-inflammatory foods. The diet is not the most fun. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, a lot of raw fruits and vegetables.”
Her no-quit attitude on the diagnosis helps Bradshaw get through each day and stay positive for the future.
“I’ve never felt sorry for myself,” she said. “There are times when it’s hard for my mom or my grandparents. My mom even said to me that she wished it were her and not me. I thought, ‘No way’ because I’m a stronger fighter. I can kick its butt more than she can — no offense, mom. Not at any point have I ever felt sorry for myself. Of course, I go through ups and downs and I have points where I’m really frustrated. But, no matter what, I just continue to fight.”
Bradshaw crossed the finish line of the 2016 500 Festival Mini Marathon in 2 hours, 16 seconds — easily besting her half marathon personal record from before her diagnoses.
“It was awesome. I beat my PR by 12 minutes,” Bradshaw said. “It was such a wonderful feeling.
“I got a little emotional towards the end,” she said. “There was a guy emceeing the run just before the finish line. He saw my ‘MS fighter’ sports bra and started rooting me on, yelling, ‘We got an MS warrior, folks, way to go!’”