GLENVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — From a young age, the familiar pattern of the black-and-white soccer ball became an imprint on Katelyn Gordon’s identity.
“Once I started walking, I always had a soccer ball at my feet,” said the Scotia-Glenville graduate, who was inducted into the Tartans’ Hall of Fame for her achievements on the pitch. “I’ve always been known for my athleticism and soccer.”
As a midfielder, the Division I soccer player could run anywhere from six to 10 miles per game, but take the ball away and distance isn’t really her favorite.
“I’ve done a half marathon once,” she said, “and I actually said I’d never do it again. But here I am running approximately seven marathons in seven days. It’s a big shift, but your perception changes.”
The change began three-and-a-half years ago.
“I was at my desk at work and I looked down at my keyboard and I felt a buzzing down my back,” she explained.
The peculiar sensation didn’t immediately go away, so as most of us do, she hopped on Google.
“You see all these terrible things and MS is one of them, but I’m like, ‘No, not me. I’m so active. I’m so young. I’m so healthy,’” she said.
Originally thought to be a pinched nerve, Katelyn’s concern didn’t come until the vision issues did. She saw a neurologist, got an MRI, and on the morning of her 30th birthday received the official diagnosis. She was active, and young, and also had Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease that mistakenly attacks the brain and spinal chord.
“So that was a nice 30th birthday present,” Katelyn said sarcastically. “I was like, ‘Just please don’t take away my legs.”
There’s no bargaining with MS, which she found out the following year on a run.
“My leg started to feel incredibly heavy. It’s a really hard experience to describe. My legs were like cement,” she explained.
When she got home, both legs were full on spasming. She ended up in the hospital for three days, barely able to walk. A lesion found on her spine nearly covered her entire spinal chord.
“That’s difficult to know that it was such a severe attack when I thought that part of MS, if it happened, wouldn’t be for a long time down the line,” said Katelyn.
Difficult times dominated that first year.
“They actually say it takes a year for you to grieve. You grieve who you once were. I felt less worthy. I was like, ‘How does this happen to me?’ And then it turned into a blessing to be honest with you.”
She started sharing her story on Instagram (@msfitrunning), detailing her feelings, her treatments, and her relapses.
“Once I put it out there I got so much support, and I felt almost free in a sense,” Katelyn described. “MS doesn’t define me I’m okay. You can do big things still.”
Katelyn’s been stable for two years with the help of a monthly treatment. Perspective pushed her to join the 2022 MS Run the US relay team, which started in California this April and will end in New York City in August, as 19 runners will take turns running across America. Katelyn is the anchor, running the final leg from Sunbury, PA to Manhattan.
“I need to do this for myself,” said Katelyn, “and in the meantime, also help people who can’t run or walk anymore. Who wish they could just go out and go for a walk, because when you have MS, some people can’t.”
Katelyn has already raised more than $14,000 to support MS research, and aid those currently living with the disease. (You can donate to her fundraising efforts here.) All the while, she’s been training for this epic 188-mile, week-long journey.
“I know it’s still possible I’ll wake up one day and not be able to walk, not be able to feel my legs, not be able to see,” she admitted.
So she wants to do what she can for as long as she can.
“This is something that MS will never be able to take away from me,” she said, giving a future full of unknowns a black-and-white accomplishment – adorned in MS orange, of course – to imprint on her new identity.