A story of strength written by Andrea Jones, County Durham, UK

After completing an Ironman in July 2011 I have since been tested for MS. The very words scared me and I felt that someone had ripped my heart out, kicked it across the motorway and let several trucks drive over it and said ‘’now deal with this’’…………

Andrea Jones, Ironman

Andrea Jones, Ironman

I always thought running was my worst discipline and after several visits to coaches and specialists they all said the same thing…..’’It’s my core strength, weak calves, it’s my age, blar blar blar’’.

I carried out 9 months of training to compete in the Ironman Austria which is 2.5 mile swim, 112mile bike ride and 26 mile run…yes all to be done in 17 hours and I just couldn’t get to grips with my running. As soon as I reached 3 mile my left leg became weak and heavy and it had  a little mind of it’s own, but never the less I remained positive and thought to myself….’’I’m not going to win , I’m not going to break any records but what I will do is finish it and be proud of my achievement.

The BIG DAY came and it was that time to put all my hard work into action……07.00hrs I stood on the edge of Lake Worthersee in Klagenfurt with 3000 others all with their individual reasons, some wanted to qualify for Ironman Hawaii, for some it was a personal challenge and they just wanted to do it and for some who had disabilities this was a challenge of their lives and to prove to themselves they can do anything if they put their mind to it.

The klaxon went off and the mass start began in the water, the feeling was ecstatic, I get goose pimples even now thinking about it.  I came out the water, I felt great the cheers and support were amazing, they push you on all the way, I got on my bike and 112 miles later I came into transition and got my running shoes on or should I say limp, drag shoes!!

At about 3 mile my left leg became heavy and weak which was the norm all through my training but with the added mileage that I had just done this felt even heavier and weaker but 15 hours and 39 minutes later I did it…coming across that finish line was a feeling that no one can ever describe….. The cheers, the support and the shear enormity of the whole day, yes tears were rolling down my face and my family’s faces. The one person that got me through it was a lady called Sue Abbot from Canada, we ended up run/walking together at the 18 mile point and when she told me her age… 67 it gave me a reality check and I thought come on girl if Sue can do this I can do this and we did.

After finishing the Ironman I started with a strange sensation in my base of my neck which would cause my eye’s to go dodgy and then my left leg would lose feeling. I just put it down to the after effects and that I needed to rest after the event but the feeling got worse and over the weeks seeing my GP thinking I had an inner ear infection to a viral infection then he decided to send me for a brain scan.

The brain scan came back with Demylination which represented MS, the words sent me into shock I felt as though someone close to me had died, my partner & family were heartbroken. I was referred to James Cook and was sent for test after test. My final one was the Lumbar Puncture after several months of refusing to go for a LP the procedure wasn’t too bad but results have come back testing positive for O bands. My bloods have also tested positive for Lupus. I often make a joke and say ’’it’s just because I’m greedy that I want it all’’ But deep down I think why bloody me?  The family came back with ‘’it’s the Ironman that’s caused it and I’ve pushed myself to much’’ But I totally disagree and believe that I had this when I completed the Ironman and with that in mind I know that I can do anything and will do another Ironman.

The Ironman has given me a sense of achievement that no other sport has given me and has and will assist me in managing my condition. Standing on the start line waiting for the klaxon to go off, looking over at the other competitors of all ages, with all disabilities you know that you are in the right place and no matter what time I do it in it’s crossing that finish line and being called an Ironman with thousands of other people shouting the words. ANDREA JONES YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Never say the words you can’t……you will and you can.  For me MS is my training partner and I have to keep one step ahead of it, I will never let it pass me.