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Runner faces new hurdle

  Darren Miller  
Cornell sophomore Dana Bishop has spent years trying to stay in front of opponents on the cross country course and running track. Now she is trying to stay in control of a more serious nemesis—multiple sclerosis.

During her senior year at Madison West (Wis.) High School, Bishop was diagnosed with optic neuritis and cannot see out of her right eye. Doctors cautioned Bishop about the probability of developing MS, but she didn’t pay too much attention —until she was home this year for Christmas break and woke one morning with numbness on her right side. The numbness persisted, so she called a doctor who delivered the news.

“I was really scared and upset, but I’m doing OK now because I have everything in perspective,” Bishop said. “If my doctor said I couldn’t participate in track or cross country, then I would have more of a problem. But since I can continue on with everything, that really helps.”

MS is a degenerative disease that damages the myelin sheath coating the nerve cells. It is rarely fatal, but the rate of progression varies depending on the individual and the medication prescribed.

“They are still doing a lot of research and they’re making progress,” Bishop said. “I chose a medication with the fewest side effects. It will prevent the (numb) episodes, but I have to give myself a shot every day.”

Bishop participated in soccer, track, and cross country in high school. At Cornell she has already lettered twice in cross country and once in track. She spends more time “listening” to her body, making sure her body temperature doesn’t get too high, which could trigger a numbing episode.

As precautions, Bishop takes her temperature before and after practices, stays out of the sauna, and keeps her body hydrated.

“Dana has never backed down from a challenge,” Cornell Coach Mark Dutro said. “The way she is handling this is typical. Dana has always stepped up to the task.”

Bishop is majoring in environmental science, geology, and Spanish. She wanted to attend a small college and learned about Cornell from her former baby sitter, Beth Douma ’91. The One-Course-At-A-Time format has paid off.

“It’s nice to be able to go home once a month if I have a doctor’s appointment,” Bishop said.

She is especially grateful to her parents, Paul and Linda Bishop, and to Dutro.

“Coach has been awesome and so understanding,” she said. “If I wouldn’t have had a coach like him I wouldn’t have been able to tell him I had MS first of all, let alone ask to take time off on block breaks.”
 
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