I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2020, just as COVID hit. I had spent years trying to figure out various health issues I was experiencing. After going from doctor to doctor, I finally went to a neurologist for an MRI, and they found lesions on my brain. A part of me felt relieved, finally knowing what was wrong with me. But then, I went into survival mode. I knew I had to make immediate changes to my diet and lifestyle, but it felt overwhelming. I also knew that additional stress leads to brain lesions with MS, so I had to start small. So, I looked into the Challenge to help me get started. 

One of the first better choices I made was exercising with my family. 

My job is pretty physical, so I always thought that I got enough exercise at work. But I knew deep down it wasn’t the exercise I needed, so I started going to the gym during my lunch break and using my Peloton at night. I felt bad that my new focus on exercise took away from my already limited family time, and then I saw the better choice about involving your kids in your workouts. My kids love working out with me now. I also try to keep a clean diet, which means no artificial foods and no refined sugars. I like swapping in Greek yogurt for sour cream, or using avocados for anything creamy.

Gratitude has become part of my daily life.

Journaling has allowed me to focus on the good, especially during this year. My kids journal with me now, and we even go around the dinner table and say what we’re grateful for each day. I love being able to fill out my gratitude journal and feel proud of what I did that day. 

My biggest motivator is the vision of my future. 

I picture each of my kids at different stages in their lives, and what my life could potentially look like with MS. I envision myself in a wheelchair at my son’s graduation. I envision sleeping through my other son’s prom. I envision using a cane walking down the aisle at my daughter’s wedding. My hope for my future and my children’s future with their mother is what drives me.

I am not scared, worried, or confused about my MS.

I’m now able to look at life from a new angle, have discussions with my children when things aren’t going the way we want them to, and shift our mindset together. The Challenge has allowed me to break down my goals and celebrate my small successes. 

All of the lifestyle changes I’ve made will only continue to help me. 

At the end of the day, we should be doing all these things with MS or without MS, but my diagnosis gave me a reason to be a better person, take care of myself, be a better mom, and live a better life. After a year of the Challenge and making better choices, I had my annual MRI of my brain and spine and I did not have any new lesions! That is about all you can ask for with MS. 

—Tarah Voltin, Walmart Supercenter #1634; Little Falls, MN; $5K Winner