Dear Dr. Nelson,
As someone who spends every day working with people experiencing life-altering illnesses, I thought I would be well-positioned to handle a diagnosis of my own. I was wrong. It is one thing to understand the physiological implications of a disease; it is quite another to accept the idea that you will personally experience them.
My life, as I saw it, both personally and professionally, has been punctuated and accented by my ability to move. My bucket list, as much as it existed in my mind, consisted of activities, pursuits of mind and body. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) last summer, I began to realize I was in a race against time before my body might fail me.
Although neurologists almost unanimously agree that intense physical activity does not contribute to MS disease progression, it still seemed a hard sell to find support for what I had in mind: a 600-mile unsupported run across Minnesota.
But, after careful consideration, lengthy conversation, and risk-management strategizing, you gave me the green light.
I appreciated how you listened to me—taking the time to look beyond the lesions in my brain and spinal cord to realize how important this run was to me. You understood this run was an expression of my fight to maintain personal autonomy and dignity, despite being terrified of the future.
I also appreciate the evening hours at M Health Fairview Clinics and Surgery Center, which have allowed me to drive down from St. Cloud for my appointments without taking time off from work.
Thank you for the individualized and flexible care I’ve been afforded.
—Chad Mickelson, P.T., D.P.T. ’18, in a letter to M Health Fairview neurologist and University of Minnesota Medical School professor Flavia Nelson, M.D. Over 27 days in September 2019, Mickelson ran from the southeastern corner of Minnesota to the northwestern tip, logging 585 miles and averaging 27.8 miles per running day. His post-run MRI revealed no disease progression.