TARPON SPRINGS — Michele Yuhas left her house before sunrise Wednesday, walked onto the asphalt at Brooker Creek Elementary School and began her daily workout regimen.
The 42-year-old New Port Richey resident, who was diagnosed nine years ago with multiple sclerosis, considers herself lucky to have a mild case. She's healthy enough for boot camp — a rigorous workout that gives her the strength and energy to combat her condition.
Plus Yuhas has lost 30 pounds since January, when she began sweating through with the Adventure Boot Camp for Women. Personal trainer John Kent runs the program using a mix of resistance, flexibility and interval training.
"I saw a sign and my boyfriend challenged me to do this," Yuhas said at the 5:30 a.m. boot camp. "I work in an office doing computer tech service, sitting on my butt all day. I've noticed since coming to boot camp that I don't fatigue as easily. I've lost weight and I can do things now that nine months ago I would have never guessed I could do."
Yuhas' condition can change from day to day. She sometimes suffers from hand seizures, numbness in her leg and excessive fatigue, among other ailments. She has been on an extensive series of medications, but remains appreciative of all the things she can still do.
"You don't sweat the small stuff anymore," Yuhas said. "I've known people who have spent the last 10 years of life in bed. On a scale of 1 to 10, I feel like I'm a 1, and so I figure I need to take advantage of what I have. That's why I'm at boot camp building up muscle, so that if I do have an exacerbation and I lose the use of a limb, I don't want to the muscle to quickly atrophy beyond use. So there had better be some muscle there to begin with."
Later this month, Yuhas will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's 50K Capital Challenge Walk. The walk starts in Virginia and ends at the U.S. Capitol. It's Yuhas' fifth time participating in the walk, which serves not only as a fundraiser for research into a cure, but gives her more perspective as well.
"There are people at the event that are in much worse shape than me," Yuhas said. "Sometimes I feel guilty even saying that I have MS, because there are people there who can only walk a few steps at a time. They come out, do those steps and that's their day."
Bob Gardner has been Yuhas' boyfriend since before her diagnosis in 2001 and has attended all five charity walks that she has taken part in. He has seen her experience with MS at its worst and says that since joining the boot camp, Yuhas has made strides in a positive direction.
"She's in a lot better shape than she's ever been since I've known her," Gardner said. "The camps are helping a lot. I'm looking forward to this year's walk simply because she is going to be able to enjoy it more. In the past, she's done well with it, but it's taken a lot out of her. Thanks to these boot camps I think she'll be able to finish with a little more energy and enjoy the experience more this year."
The Adventure Boot Camp is helping Yuhas raise money for the trip by staging a fundraiser of its own this Saturday. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society asks all participants in the national race to raise $1,500 to go toward research, and all proceeds of Kent's event will help Yuhas reach that goal.
"She came into the camps with a great attitude and common sense," Kent said of Yuhas. "She doesn't push herself so hard that she'll do something that makes her uncomfortable. We have modifications for all of the exercises that she does and we focus on what she can do and not what she can't do. She has overcome a lot of obstacles and inspires us with what she does."
David Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.