Make no excuses
Angie Johnson of Alexandria is no stranger to long distance biking, or to the disease of multiple sclerosis (MS). This is her fourth time biking in the MS The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM) event, and she's watched her dad battle MS for the past 33 years.
Johnson, a wellness exercise specialist with Knute Nelson Wellness Center in Alexandria, participates in the TRAM for the same reason as many others - to raise awareness and help fight MS.
Each year she's raised funds to support those goals. Two years ago she raised $6,000 for the MS Society - a goal she's set for herself again this year, but she admits she'd really like to raise $10,000 - one dollar for each of the estimated 10,000 people living with MS in Minnesota.
"MS has had a major impact on my life," she said. "The TRAM is such a great experience and a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and help fight MS.
"It's a lot of work, but more than worth it," she said of the fundraising.
Johnson's dad, Terry, now age 53, was diagnosed with MS 33 years ago.
"For many years his symptoms were nearly unnoticeable, but the past 10 years they've progressed more rapidly," Johnson said. "He starting losing his independence and the ability to control his muscles.
"I can only imagine what it must feel like to be trapped inside your own body, wanting to be able to move, but the signals from your brain just can't get to your muscles, at the same time being unable to speak because it is too difficult to come up with the words and they just won't come out," Johnson added.
Terry has spent the last three years at Fair Oaks Lodge, a nursing home in Wadena, while his daughter and others do all they can to raise funds and awareness to fight this dreaded disease.
Besides being involved in MS Society fundraising efforts, Johnson also has made a career out of helping people live healthier lives through fitness and exercise.
She currently works with the NeuroFit program at the Knute Nelson Wellness Center. The program is designed to help people affected by neurological movement disorders such as MS and Parkinson's Disease.
"I have seen first-hand how this program has changed lives and slowed disease progression," she said.
This year, Johnson has been raising funds and plans to ride in the TRAM under the theme, "No Excuses."
"Over the years my dad has taught me many things," she explained. "Two of the most important things are have a strong faith and make no excuses.
"My dad is one of the most faith-filled people I know. This faith shined through him every day. He never worried about anything and fear never controlled his life. He lived every day to the fullest, always doing what he could and never making any excuses. How easy would it have been for him to say, 'I can't - I have MS.'
"Instead, he found ways of adapting to his limitations to do what he could each day. Even when some of the simplest tasks became challenges, he never game up. He would make modifications and just keep trying until he found a way.
"I try to live my life through his amazing examples," she added.
To donate to Johnson's TRAM ride, send a check made out to the National MS Society to Angie Johnson, PO Box 1331, Alexandria, MN, 56308 or link to her TRAM fundraising page online at www.mstram.com, click on donate/epledge to the left of the page, click on "search all participants," and type in the name Angie Johnson.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision.
The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.
New treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease.