By Gregg Lasky
Posted May 20 2002
John Neyenhouse has been a high school teacher and coach, company vice president and marathon runner, all while living with multiple sclerosis.
"If they tell me I'm not going to be able to walk, I say, `I'm not going to walk, I'm going to run,'" said Neyenhouse, 56, of Margate.
That attitude has helped the former Tire Kingdom vice president survive more than 20 years of the on-again, off-again symptoms of MS.
Neyenhouse had been active his entire life in Plattsburgh, N.Y. By the late 1970s, he was coaching football and teaching physical education while running a tire business. Then he started having trouble throwing a ball and controlling his hands.
"I thought I was working too hard," he said.
The motor skills problems blossomed into a few car accidents. Neyenhouse spent three weeks in the hospital, thinking there was a non-life-threatening explanation.
"The doctor told me he had some bad news -- I had MS," said Neyenhouse, who came to South Florida with his wife, Mary, in 1982. "He said, `Sell your business, quit your job, and get a wheelchair, because you're probably going to be incapacitated by the time you're 35.' I bought into that for a year."
He lost stamina and began experiencing double vision, both associated with MS, he said. He grew depressed and gained 50 pounds.
Finally, his business partner persuaded him to get a second opinion. He went to the Leahy Clinic in Boston, where his new doctor encouraged a different approach to treatment.
"He told me I definitely had MS, but he said, `You don't have to worry about dying of MS. You're going to die of a heart attack. Don't stop living your lifestyle. Just do what comes naturally.' So I got in shape and a year later ran a marathon," Neyenhouse said.
"A lot of times we want to hear what we want to hear, so we find a doctor or lawyer or someone who tells us what we want to hear, and then we make it our holy grail," said the veteran of 10 marathons and many road races.
After moving to South Florida, the father of two daughters went to work for Tire Kingdom and soon became a vice president who oversaw dozens of stores in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. In 1985, he ran the Orange Bowl Marathon in a three-piece suit.
"I had a briefcase, and I would look at people and say, `Hey, which way to the airport?'" he said.
Two years ago, he used a wheelchair for three months for the first time in years and had to stop working. Since then, he has battled the neurological effects of MS while continuing to work out at a gym and walk regularly with his wife.
Neyenhouse credits the care he's received from his doctors, but mostly, he relies on his upbeat approach to his daily challenges.
"I've achieved a lot in my lifetime," Neyenhouse said. "Sure there are lots of things I can't do, but there are lots of things I can do. I honestly believe the best is yet to come."
Do you have a recent story of hope? Have you overcome adversity in raising
a family, been involved in a rescue or beaten the odds medically? Contact
Steve Plunkett at email@example.com or 954-356-4775.
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