Boomin’ Up North Magazine
Lori Schneider had already scaled several mountains when she was
diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis nearly 10 years ago. When
she heard those two letters, her memory shot back to the
discouraging message of a long-ago television campaign: “MS –
crippler of young adults.” “I thought, ‘My gosh, my physical
life is over,’” she recalled during a recent interview at her rural
Bayfield residence. “And it scared me to death.” But Schneider
has since learned a simple but empowering lesson: that ordinary
people – herself included – can do quite extraordinary things. Only
a decade after hearing those two little letters, she reached her
goal of climbing the world’s “Seven Summits” with her recent
conquest of Mt. Everest, and in fact became the first person in the
world with MS to do so.
In climbing the highest peaks on the seven
continents of Africa, Europe, South America, North America,
Australia, Antarctica, and Asia, Schneider has managed to maintain a
level of physical activity that far surpasses that of the vast
majority of adults who do not contend with the disease she has.
Her physical life, by no means, is over as she feared those 10
action-packed years ago. Part of this is due to the nature of
Schneider’s experience with MS, an autoimmune disorder that attacks
the body’s central nervous system. She has the
relapsing-remitting form of the disease, which means she may have
long periods of time without experiencing any symptoms. The
symptoms of the disease vary from person to person, but hers – which
have so far included fatigue, loss of vision and numbness that
coursed through half her body – arise at infrequent intervals.
Part of having the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, she
said, means that after she is treated for an exacerbation, her
symptoms will either partially or completely fade away until the
next flare-up occurs. Schneider said that to this point, she
has been relatively fortunate, as she has been treated for and
recovered from just three major exacerbations since her diagnosis.
Schneider was originally inspired to climb by a dream her father had to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, which led to a successful summit of the mountain on her father’s 61st birthday in 1993. After climbing Aconcagua in 2000, Schneider participated in a climb of Mera Peak in Nepal to raise money for a charity, and then she was off to Russia to climb Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus. With her health still strong, she trained on volcanoes in Mexico to get in shape for an attempt of Denali – North America’s highest peak – the following spring. With an investment of $10,000 in extreme weather gear, along with a relentless determination, Schneider reached the summit of Denali, in Alaska, in May 2006.
Persistent back pain, however, led to surgery in 2006, and
following recovery time and training to rebuild her strength,
Schneider had ice axe back in hand and was off to Australia’s Mt.
Kosciusko in July 2008 and Mt. Vinson in Antarctica only four months
later. She said she “saved the best for last,” setting foot on
the top of the world, Mt. Everest, on May 23, 2009. But the
process wasn’t easy. She faced a number of challenges beyond the
obvious physical ones that come with reaching the highest
mountaintops on the world’s seven continents.