12 Min AMRAP:
20 Target Toss @ 20/14
15 Deadlift @ 225/155
30 Double Under
How CrossFit Helped This Former College Athlete Conquer MS
This college athlete went from playing golf to using a walker and struggling with deep depression — all due to MS. Here’s how CrossFit, family, and friendship brought her back.
At 29 years old, Rebecca Guess found herself overweight and desperate for a new workout routine.
A former golfer for Purdue University, she longed for the days of being fit and active.
“Someone suggested CrossFit, so I tried it and ended up getting really into it,” Guess explains.
She got so into it that she lost 40 pounds and gained the courage to run her first 5K.
But then: “Shortly after the run, my legs got a numb feeling, some of my left fingers were numb too, and I started getting vertigo and dizzy all the time,” she recalls.
Suddenly, she went from running races and lifting 175 pounds to not being strong enough to lift 80.
“I knew something wasn’t right. I took a break from working out, but still nothing changed, so I went to a doctor,” says Guess.
About two weeks later, on March 15, 2011, Guess received a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).
“It really was a shock to me,” she says. “Nowhere in my realm did I even think of that as a possibility. No one in my family has MS. It wasn’t even on my radar.”
With diagnosis came depression
Guess immediately began using Avonex, but continued to experience flare-ups. Her MS progressed. After about three years on the medication, her doctor switched her to Gilenya, which she’s been using for the past four years.
“I felt worthless. I went into a deep, dark depression. Every night before bed, I’d pray to die because I just didn’t feel like I could do this physically.”
— Rebecca Guess
“It’s stabilized me, and I’ve been in remission for about 3 1/2 years with a few flare-ups here and there,” Guess says. “Besides the physical benefits, Gilenya really helped so I could mentally get myself going.”
About four years after receiving her diagnosis with MS, Guess experienced two herniated discsand had surgery to remove one of them. During this time, she gained back the weight she had lost before the diagnosis and used a walker regularly. Her health deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t work at her family’s trucking business anymore.
“I felt worthless. I went into a deep, dark depression. Every night before bed, I’d pray to die because I just didn’t feel like I could do this physically. I didn’t want to deal with MS deteriorating my body and debilitating my life,” she says. “My thoughts just kept getting worse and darker.”
In an attempt to help, a friend who Guess had met years earlier — on the first day she tried CrossFit — suggested that she get back into it. After contemplating the idea for months, and doubting herself, Guess tapped into her inner athlete.
“The golf team I was on was a top 15 team in the U.S., and I shouldn’t have been on it. I didn’t have the scores and ability, but I made the team because I worked hard and I had a lot of other things behind me,” Guess recalls.
“I realized I wanted to be that person again, who beats the odds, and I remembered what my college coach said to me once when we were working on my putting. He said, ‘Sometimes you got to fake it until you make it.’ I knew I had to do that with MS. I had to keep thinking ‘I’ll be OK’ until one day I am,” she says.
Guess also used her family as inspiration. Her father has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for several years. “He stays positive and keeps focused on what he has to do to stay as healthy as possible,” Guess explains. “Watching him, I know you can manage even when things are really unpleasant and tough.”
Her two nephews also gave her the most motivation to push through. “They were 12 and 14 at the time I was really depressed, and I wanted them to be proud of me, not disappointed that I had let MS take over my life,” she remembers.
With all of this weighing on her mind, she says one day she woke up and had an aha moment: “I thought: ‘This is supposed to be the best time in my life and this is not who I am. I’m not going to let MS kick me! I’m done feeling sorry for myself and throwing myself a pity party. I’m going to go back to the strong person I am.’”