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MS Moments: Defying the diagnosis

Multiple sclerosis affects each person differently, which is why every story is unique.

It doesn't matter if you're a mom, a brother, old or young: multiple sclerosis doesn't discriminate. 

The neurological disease affects each person differently and for that reason, every story is unique.

The 6 a.m. workout at North Ankeny Crossfit is always filled with regulars who know their way around. Most are in the best shape of their lives, but bulking up isn't the focus for one of these veterans.

Matt Dowie is 27 years old. For him, crossfit is more than just a workout. 

"It's my kind of release from MS, also in another sense treatment against MS. Exercise is incredibly important to those with MS," Dowie told Local 5's Elias Johnson.

Matt will never forget the day he was officially diagnosed with MS.

"It was over the course of a couple of years. I can go back to 2014 when I had my first symptoms if you will. I'd go out for a run or something and could tell something was different. So I ended up going to Mayo clinic in 2018 and was formally diagnosed up there," he explained.

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Karrie Anderson had a more dramatic introduction to the neurological disease.

She collapsed while running at a softball game. Her first thought was that she had a slipped disk in her back.

"I thought that I was having back surgery, and 12 and a half hours later they came in and said, 'Karrie, you have MS' and our life changed very quickly," she said.

Karrie remembers the feeling that overwhelmed her after doctors broke the news to her.

"Yeah... it was a super hard day, and I'm not by any means a perfect person."

"You know, my son was 3 and not used to Mom not being able to play soccer in the backyard and do those thing," Anderson said. "And I'm trying not to scare people, but it just changed my life."

But the diagnosis would end up giving Karrie a new purpose. She founded MS Moments five years ago. The non-profit provides financial assistance, resources and advocacy for Iowans with the disease, like Matt.

"I was diagnosed at 38, Matt was diagnosed at 25 and college athletes, both of use. And this kid finished and he is showing the face of MS that number one, we can be flexible, and number two, you don't have to wait around and get sick," Karrie said, "You can help yourself."

A study done by the MS Society last year says close to one million Americans live with the disease, far beyond the half-million that they were expecting. 

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Major advances in research for treatment options means that a diagnosis in 2020 comes with optimism.

"I have to believe there will be a cure in my lifetime. I have to believe in my lifetime, if my son or my grandkids some day hear MS they'll say my mom or my grandma had MS," Anderson said.

Until then, survivors like Matt stay active and celebrate each sunrise they see.

"I've got a lot of life to live and so I plan on living that life. Get out there and live that life and don't let MS take hold and effect that," Dowie said.

MS Moments has its 3rd annual Outsmart MS Trivia Night coming up on March 28 at the Sherwood Forest Event Center. It lasts from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. 

You can find our more information on that event and the resources that MS Moments provides by visiting their website.