Friday, September 21, 2012

The Experts Weigh In: When Your Body Turns On You


Isn't it nice to grow up completely worry-free? Because you and I both know that once you graduate college, 'life' begins. When I turned 23, I was sucker punched in the gut with medical news that would change my life forever.

Denial is a beautiful thing. When you're still young, you don't realize that your body can actually turn on you. I never had any issues growing up. I danced my whole life, constantly attending competitions and performing. I was always moving. I never sat down. Even after college, I continued moving, whether it was yoga, boxing classes, Pilates, cycling or working with personal trainers. I was ALWAYS doing something!

My medical journey began one night while I was working my dream job at VH1. I had stayed overnight to edit, spending the entire time staring at a computer monitor. After only a few hours of sleep, I noticed - while putting on my makeup - that my eyesight was blurry. I immediately blamed it on being tired and went on with my week, but my eyesight didn't get any better. It was like seeing a cloud everywhere I turned.

Assuming I needed glasses, I went to the optometrist to pick out some cool Prada frames, but low and behold, I didn't need glasses. I needed an MRI. PRONTO. After being admitted to the hospital, getting shot up on steroids, undergoing an MRI and spinal tap, and seeing three different doctors in one month, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My first red flag just happened to be the optical neuritis.

I was so young! I felt nothing short of shocked. I was in a state of denial, refusing to let any health diagnosis stop me. I didn't even know what MS was. Today, I can share that it's an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system. My nerves don't transfer properly, causing symptoms such as blurry vision, numbness and tingling. The worst part is that no two people have the same symptoms, making it that much harder to cure.

I continued my young adult life - partying late into the night, dancing at clubs and hanging out with people I shouldn't have. I wanted to tell my body "I'll show you!". After starting to fall down drunk and never knowing whether my symptoms were a result of the MS or a nasty hangover, I knew I had to make a serious change. I curtailed the partying and focused on my career. 

For me, the biggest hurdle with MS is listening to my body. I'm a workaholic and definitely overdo it. It's hard for me to say "Maybe I shouldn't work these hours" or "Maybe I shouldn't go out tonight". I don't want MS to stop me from anything. When I got my diagnosis, I continued to workout because I knew exercise was really important. I was actually devastated when my doctors told me to stay away from my favorite - hot yoga - because any room at that temperature can bring on MS symptoms.

After injecting myself three times a week with medication (the worse) while living alone in New York, I decided to move to LA. Of course, my parents were concerned. What if I had symptoms and needed their assistance? But luckily, I went away with their support, which I am grateful for, because I would have regretted never having tried out a new city.

Living in LA was great for my MS. The weather was perfect. I was taking advantage of all LA had to offer. I hired a personal trainer at Crunch, was seeing her daily and was also spinning once a week. One day, after doing a deadlift, I felt an awful pain shoot through my back. For the next few days, I actually thought it was an MS symptom. I had no idea that I had just done something stupid at the gym. The next few months resulted in multiple bouts of steroids to help the pain, but it only got worse. The pain got so bad that I could barely drive or sleep. After an epidural - which didn't work in the least - I had to stop working out altogether. It got so bad that I resorted to spinal surgery. 

After surgery, I was told that I couldn't work out. It was an awful message to receive. I became depressed and starting popping pain pills, barely able to move out of my bed. When my disc actually re-herniated, I had to have a second spinal surgery. I had reached an all time low. Luckily, I had a very supportive boyfriend in LA, but all signs were pointing back to New York where my family was.

I returned to New York feeling utterly defeated. I was so traumatized from my first physical therapy experience, that there was no way I was going back. I just went back to work and started dreaming of the day that I could work out again.When my back started to feel better and there was no shooting sensation going down my leg, I started going to private Pilates sessions on the reformer, but soon became bored. I needed music! I needed something to get me going and change my mood. 

After reading an article in the NY Post about a new cycling studio called Flywheel Sports, I decided to take the chance and see if my body could handle the bike. I started taking classes in July of 2011 and was immediately hooked. The best part was that my back was not hurting! I didn't care what my numbers were after class. I had discovered a workout that my body accepted! This was breaking news for me personally. It's been over a year now since my first class, and I have not missed one week.

I still wake up every morning unsure of how my body is going to feel. There are times that I am exhausted and don't want to work out, but ultimately I know I will feel 100% better after a Flywheel class. This is not just a workout. It's a jump back to life. For years, I went to the gym and barely broke a sweat since I only wanted to wash my hair once a week (girls, I know you can relate). Now it's hard to believe that I actually found a workout where I am willing to wash my hair three times a week! 

I saw my body change, but more than anything, my mental state began to transform. For years, I felt my body hated me. Now I only feel that way occasionally. Granted I can't do every workout, but when I'm on that bike, my body works with me and I'm in my happy place.

Image courtesy of Melanie Greene Productions
The sense of community at Flywheel is awesome. The instructors, staff and my fellow riders are supportive and uplifting. Flywheel has done more for me than anyone could imagine. They even went so far as to help me organize an event - MSquared: Music Against MS - for the charity I created. The event gave me an opportunity to share my love for Flywheel with family and friends, while raising money for this incurable disease.

I'd like to leave you with this: From the perspective of social media, everyone's life looks so perfect and glamorous. The truth is, everyone has 'something' and THIS is MY 'something'. I have MS, I have a bad back, but I also have Flywheel. Hope can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

MSquared: Music Against MS will be participating in the 30-mile MS Bike Tour in New York on October 21st and the music event is being held on November 7th at Session 73 at 7pm.  For more info please see or look for us on Facebook.

Marni Blake Rothman lives in New York City, works in TV and is currently producing Long Island Medium, airing Sunday nights on TLC.  She's worked with BRAVO, VH1, MTV and HBO, to name a few. When she's not calling the shots at work, you can find Marni sitting on the couch with her boyfriend catching up on her DVR, at a music festival doing the hippie dance or running errands in her neighborhood. When asked what she loved best about NYC, Marni said "My cleaners, nail salon, hair salon, drugstore, yogurt store and liquor store are all on the same block. In any other city, my errands would take me an entire day!" Find out more about Marni at:


  1. I already knew Marni was amazing, but I had no idea just exactly how amazing... thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog,! Marni is a brave girl in general and even braver for spilling her guts on my site! :)

  2. If you'd like to donate to Marni's Bike MS New York team, then you can do so here: