In December, 2013 the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA), partnering with Genzyme, a Sanofi company, held a nationwide search through their Why I Swim campaign.
They were looking for inspiring stories in the MS community, from those who are at different stages of the disease. On March 18, 2014, the MSAA posted a video with the stories of the three women chosen on www.SwimForMS.org/
Swimming is one form of water-based activity that offers many health benefits. Water workouts provide bouyancy which makes exercise easier for those with MS. Their bodies become more flexible and their muscles become stronger. Emotionally and psychologically, this type of exercise creates a greater sense of well-being.
Mary Sypawka from Harleysville, PA and Mandy Iris Vercoe from Flagstaff, AZ are two of three women chosen to tell their stories about how swimming has helped manage their MS symptoms and improve their overall well-being.
Mary had been having symptoms for some time but she didn't know what was wrong until she was diagnosed at age 34 -- three months before she was to be married. Fortunately the diagnosis did not change the wedding plans, she and her husband have now been married for 20 years.
She said that dealing with multiple sclerosis is so much about planning, and making use of the times when she is at her best. Mornings are the best part of the day for her to be able to do things. She also tries to make a point of taking naps and instituting rest periods.
"I've always believed I'll see a cure in my life time. So my goal is to keep from degenerating too much before it's found," Mary said in a phone interview. Swimming is a big part of her plan to maintain her health as much as possible.
Twelve years ago, Mary found an MS-specific swimming class near her place of work. Unfortunately the disease continued to progress to the point where she had to quit working, and she couldn't swim any longer. She took stock of her situation and was realistic in concluding that her new job was to take care of herself.
Later she was able to take up swimming again at a local YMCA in an MS-specific class that she helped institute.