An Alfredton woman with multiple sclerosis is thinking positive in the lead-up to a walk raising funds and awareness for the condition.
Rachelle McIntyre is the inspiration behind Make Steps For MS, a journey to the top of Carterton's Mt Dick on March 5.
Though confined to a wheelchair, Mrs McIntyre will be meeting walkers at the top of the track to celebrate them reaching the summit.
Make Steps for MS is the brainchild of Carterton life coach Maree McManaway, a mentor and friend of Mrs McIntyre.
Mrs McManaway is the founder of LYF4U, and says her friendship with Mrs McManaway led to wondering what she could to do "give back" to a worthy cause.
People are invited to walk the 3.5km of uphill track to what Mrs McManaway describes as "one of the best views in Wairarapa".
Mt Dick is at the end of Dalefield Road, north and west of Carterton.
From the viewing platform at the top, people can look out over the Wairarapa valley and see in the distance Lake Wairarapa and the towns of Carterton, Masterton, Greytown and Featherston.
For its victims, multiple sclerosis is "an uphill battle that they don't get to walk away from", Mrs McManaway said.
"That's why I wanted to make it a bit of a challenge, but it's completely walkable."
Entry is $25 a person, and funds raised will support people with MS in Wairarapa. If enough money is raised, items like mobility equipment could be purchased and loaned out to those in need.
Support for the walk is "really starting to come in" with Wairarapa businesses donating items for spot prizes, and Mrs MacManaway said others can help by doing the same or giving "water, lollies, there are so many little details".
Multiple sclerosis is a paralysing disorder caused by multiple scars (sclerosis) along the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.
It can affect movement, feeling, sight and hearing.
The cause is unknown but may be linked to exposure early in life to a still unidentified virus.
The disease is often degenerative, as in Mrs McIntyre's case, and strikes at more women than men, usually in their 30s, but can also strike in the 20s and 40s.
For Mrs McIntyre, the first sign that something was wrong came several years ago.
``I used to always walk along farm tracks and by the end of the walk, I found I was tripping on a stone.
``I'd say, `You're just tired; pick up your feet'.
Later, after a walk Mrs McIntyre's right leg would start to feel very heavy, but the feeling would go after about 10 minutes. ``Then it just began to get worse.''
Mrs McIntyre started seeing an osteopath, and soon the problem seemed to have disappeared, coinciding with her second pregnancy.
``I found out later that it (MS) remits when you are in pregnancy.''
Eight months after the birth of her second boy, however, the symptoms came back ``with a vengeance'', and soon Mrs McIntyre was scheduled for an MRI scan that confirmed multiple sclerosis.
That was eight years ago and caused a massive adjustment as Mrs McIntyre slowly lost the use of her legs and, just lately, some mobility in her hands.
She has a caregiver at home but still manages to get out for some occasional relief teaching.
A self-confessed ``fitness freak'' and ``adrenaline junkie'' before her illness, Mrs McIntyre had to learn not to blame herself and wonder whether it was something she did that caused the MS.
Through her life coaching with Mrs McManaway, she has learned about positive affirmations, and how to battle against the depression and worry about the illness' unpredictable course.
``My dream is that there's going to be a miracle and I'll be able to say to my children `let's go and jump on the trampoline, or let's go and kick a ball around','' Mrs McIntyre said.
``I had a wonderful childhood and I'd relive my childhood with my children.
``My children are my life; I have to keep trying to beat my disease for them.''