Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
Taking Chances When Opportunities Present
Howard "Scott" Cleland -- Kenosha County, WI
Growing up, my whole family was connected to the military. So, following my high school graduation it was natural for me to join the US Army. I served for 20 years. I’m not sure how long I’ve had MS, but my neurologist thinks I’ve likely had the disease since before 1990. I had symptoms of MS, such as loss of feeling in my right hand and left leg, long before my diagnosis but the symptoms were blamed on a severe back injury I sustained from an air jump.
In 2007, I was having issues with my eyesight as well as my walking. My wife insisted I get some more testing done, and this ended up including a brain MRI. This MRI showed 26 lesions in my brain and they realized I had MS. My wife and I were shocked about the diagnosis, the neurologist was shocked that I hadn’t been diagnosed earlier. Once I knew, I read all I could about MS. Luckily, my MS has been manageable, with mostly good days and a few not-so-good days.
I became connected to VA health care following a surgery which necessitated some rehabilitation. I was assigned to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin VA, and along with my physical therapy sessions I received a recumbent bike to help with my rehabilitation. The bike helped so much that I started using it every chance I got, making sure I was doing cardio-respiratory exercises at least three times a week. With all the exercise and movement, I could see my muscle tone improving. I found it easier to get around as I was stronger and had more energy.
While it was great to feel physically like my old self again, when I reflected on how I was spending my days, I found they weren’t as full and satisfying as I would like them to be. I wasn’t sure what to do about it, but I knew that I needed a change. While attending the Highland Games, my children and I came across an area that allowed attendees to try archery. My children tried it and insisted I try it as well. Little did they know I was a member of the archery team in middle and high school. I put three arrows in the target, and they were amazed. They were also interested in doing more.
I reached out to my childrens’ elementary school about the possibility of teaching archery to students and was quickly given everything I needed to start an archery program. The children enjoyed learning about archery, and I enjoyed teaching them. Over time, the program progressed to middle and high school as students advanced in their schooling and more became interested. Now, I’ve been an archery instructor for over 9 years, and it’s been a wonderful experience. I have a team of coaches that I work with and I enjoy getting to know the students, watching them learn and grow. I find the volunteering helps keep me engaged and gives me an opportunity to work with the community, meet new people, and experience new things.
I feel blessed to have this opportunity to teach archery to students and encourage others to keep their eyes open for opportunities to expand their horizon. We all get chances and choices in life, and we’ve all been in situations where saying no is easier than saying yes. I encourage you to say yes to good opportunities, because if we don’t make the most of our life, we’re failing at living. Every day that I wake up, put my feet on the ground, and stand up is a good day for me. I take chances and when life creates opportunities, I grab them and am excited about where they will take me.