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Harris: "M.S. Was Not Going to Rule My Life"
BALTIMORE, MD--(Marketwired - Jan 8, 2016) - "It's a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying." - Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), The Shawshank Redemption
For Parkville's Tony Harris, 38, truer words had never been spoken on the big screen but believing those words was a different story altogether. In 2006, Harris' life changed forever after he escaped a terrifying incident on the road.
"I was going about 40 m.p.h. on my bike when I completely lost feeling on the right side of my body," Harris said. "Since the front and rear brakes are on the right side of a bike, all I could do was pull on the clutch with my left hand and hope I could coast to safety using my left foot to help me slow down."
After a trip to the emergency room and a barrage of tests at the hospital, a subsequent brain scan revealed Harris had two lesions on his brain and his doctor delivered the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
While it is estimated that more 400,000 people in the United States and more than 2.5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the actual number is thought to be much higher as it is a disease that can go undiagnosed for years.
"This completely pulled the rug out from underneath me and I went into severe depression," Harris said. "I was an athlete, a very active person and drove a truck for a living and I thought it was all gone."
Harris tried to combat the symptoms by checking into the hospital every few months for three to five days in which he received various anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids. Although his doctors were doing their best to manage his M.S., Harris knew the disease was managing him and it was not long before a new round of terror struck.
"In 2009, I lost control of everything and I mean everything," Harris said. "I lost feeling all over my body, could not see and had no control over bodily functions -- I was almost a complete invalid and beyond scared."
The modestly built 6'4" 32-year-old had seen his body go from the epitome of healthy to total system failure. Additionally, he became sensitive to temperature extremes. Cold brought numbness and heat brought on fatigue and blindness. Although his doctors were more aggressive in their drug regimen, Harris still suffered from constant fatigue and was in a constant "brain fog."
"It still felt like my legs were all the over place and sometimes it just seemed like my feet missed the floor and I went down in a heap," Harris said. "My confidence was shot. You fall down hard a few times and you lose the will to even want to walk. It's like if you get mugged in an alley, you try to find any excuse to avoid any alley. I looked for any excuse not to try to walk."
Less than pleased at the progress he was making with the drug treatment, Harris knew it was up to him to find a way to help his body heal. If Harris was going to live life on his terms, he would have to get the upper hand on this disease. He began to research M.S. extensively and came up with more questions than answers. What Harris did find, however, was that exercise and general fitness helped minimize the effect of the M.S. symptoms.
"I got it in my mind that if I could just get my body healthy, I could get it strong enough to combat the disease," Harris said. "I began to pick and choose exercises that would at least get me to the starting line so I could begin to get my confidence and my life back."
Although patience was not exactly a commodity Harris had an abundance of, he knew deep inside there would be a lot of trial and error and that he would have to bring his body along at a slow pace.
"This was a learning process for my mind as well as my body," said Harris. "I had to convince myself that there was no other way. This was how I was going to get busy living."
Harris made progress but it was slow and at times, very frustrating. But he began notice little things that gave him hope.
"I kept telling myself to take it slow in the beginning and exercise restraint to keep from over doing it," Harris said. "It was one day at a time for the first few months. Things slowly began to change and I started putting on weight and gaining muscle mass. For the first time in a long while, I felt like I was developing stamina and that me allowed to get a little stronger each day."
Harris went from 183 pounds to 245 pounds in just over three years. The symptoms began to subside and with the exception of one "self-inflicted" episode, Harris has been free from any major relapses for five years.
After having seeing and feeling the benefits of a personalized fitness plan, Harris began the process of helping others to achieve their fitness and health goals. In 2010, Harris became a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) and began his second career, this time driving his clients to reach fitness goals. Shortly thereafter, Harris began his quest to create a workout regimen specifically tailored to the needs of those suffering with M.S.
"This changed my life and now I treat each new day as the best day of my life," said Harris. "I want to give this gift of improved health and a better quality of life to anyone who suffers from this disease. My program is the first fitness program designed specifically for people with M.S. created by someone with M.S."
Harris is in the process of producing a video that would allow M.S. patients to easily work out in the comfort of their homes and hopes to roll out the video in time for the 2016 Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in March.
Check out more about Tony Harris in the video link below:
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