RIDING, NOT MS, THE FOCUS
Keli DiRisio’s eyes were in tremendous pain. They throbbed endlessly and she struggled to walk without losing her balance.
She went to the physician thinking her bronchitis and constant sneezing caused her to strain an eye vessel. However within three days her life changed. A trip to her general doctor on a Wednesday was followed by an ophthalmologist appointment on Thursday and then a neurologist on Friday diagnosing her with multiple sclerosis at the age of 24.
The chronic, progressive nervous disorder usually occurs in young adults, is more common in females and can cause fatigue, muscle spasms and memory loss. In the United States, 400,000 people live with multiple sclerosis and another 200 are diagnosed every week.
After the devastating news, DiRisio decided to stay positive and return to her passion of riding horses.
Three years ago, her doctor prescribed Tysabri, new medication that stabilizes damage done from MS. The newfound energy helps her to compete in horse shows.
“With MS, one day you feel full of energy and the next day you don’t feel well enough to do anything,” she said. “I literally had to get back on my horse because I thought one day I might not be able to ride anymore.”
On Saturday she competed in a Professional Horseman Association horse show at the High View Farms in Pittsford, and will compete again in January.
“When you are on the back of a 1,200 pound animal, you can’t think about how bad your day with MS is or what your doctor just told you,” said DiRisio, 39, of Victor. “You have to keep all your focus on that big animal which calms my mind.”
Dr. David Smith, a physician for the Neuro-Opthalmology Consultants of Rochester, said multiple sclerosis has the power to take someone’s day-to-day life away from them.
The constant attack on the nervous system causes many patients to become listless.
“With Keli, she was willing to treat her MS aggressively with treatments that gave her parts of her life back,” said Smith. “Too often physicians wait until someone shows a more severe case before really attacking it. If we waited for that, Keli wouldn’t be able to ride her horses like she does now.”