Stories to Inspire
Taking Small Steps and Changing My Life for the Better
By Virginia Oman
My name is Virginia Oman and I have secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). I was diagnosed back in 1988, and my first symptoms were visual changes, numbness, and loss of balance. Many have described me as a “phoenix in human form,” because I have transformed my life from “ashes” to “flight.”
Currently, I am a personal fitness trainer, wellness coach, instructor for the YMCA, licensed mental health therapist, and life coach. Several years ago, I served as an ambassador for MSAA, extolling the many life-changing benefits of aquatic exercise. My passion is to share my knowledge with others to help them transform their lives into a brighter and healthier state of mind, body, emotions, and spirit.
However, things were not always this positive – and I want to tell you my story of how I changed my life for the better. Having been to the depths of despair and seriously planning to exit out of this world due to all the losses I sustained from MS, I suddenly heard a voice inside me that gave me the message that would turn everything around and give me my life back. I now have more energy, more joy, more vitality, and more fulfillment than even before MS came into my life.
My body had declined to the point of being in a wheelchair, with no energy despite doing everything my doctors recommended. This resulted in many losses… including my career, my home, and treasured activities I once loved. It was one loss after another.
I am sending out a message to anyone reading this who has MS – and especially those who may be struggling. I have been to the bottom and I found a way out. I not only have my life back, but a much better life. While most individuals with MS may be able to make positive changes mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I also recognize that everyone is affected by MS differently and not all are able to make the types of positive physical changes that I have experienced. By setting very small goals for yourself, you may be able to find that you can make a difference in your life. My advice is to listen to your body and ask it to tell you what it needs most in order to heal.
I listened to my intuition and followed the call of what it was my body was telling me it needed. I felt the need to increase my physical capabilities and to take a more natural direction. Then I designed a course of action and went to work. I started in the pool, setting small goals. My legs were too weak to even kick. But I started anyway, utilizing a stroke I made up myself.
I did not see any improvement at first, but I kept at it every day. After a few weeks, I saw a bit of improvement in my energy level, which was very exciting. Then after another month, I started to get a little movement in my legs. Three months later, my legs were actually able to start doing small kicks again. This progression kept going because I refused to give up. By the end of eight months, I was actually swimming 30 minutes of continuous laps!
I also want to mention that by using a similar, very gradual process of setting small goals and increasing my activity level, I was able to regain my ability to ride a bicycle. I started with a small, children’s bike without pedals. This allowed me to walk while seated on the bike, and from there, I worked to balance and glide, starting with just two-second intervals at a time.
The process continued, as I got up every day at 4:00 AM to fit in two hours of specific bike exercises before leaving for work – and then did the same when I got home. It required 64 specific steps that I developed and a total of 11 months to complete. This was a long journey, but certainly worth every effort, as I am now riding a full-sized, two-wheeled bike, and yes, with pedals!
I have continued to listen to my body and work out, not only in the water or on a bicycle, but now I’m walking with lightweight hiking poles. Even if it’s 15 degrees outside… I’m out in my parka walking because I know all this movement has given me my life back. Nothing is more vital to me. In the evenings I’ll do some cardio on my stationary bike as well as stretching. I learned my lesson loud and clear: find your path and pursue it daily. Don’t give up. Be stubborn! Be determined!
I am now living the life of my dreams and have totally dedicated my life to helping others be able to do the same. That’s my passion, my gift, and I am happy to share it with others in need.
Virginia shares her story on her website at virginiaoman.com.