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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
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Timothy L. Vollmer M.D.
Department of Neurology
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Kasey Schraufnagel shared her story: She had lost 78 pounds, she was battling multiple sclerosis, she was only in her 20s and losing the weight was almost as tough as losing her mobility. Schraufnagel was a size 2 and had no weight issues until Nov. 25, 2008, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was just 23.

She spoke softly and shyly, and the audience clapped politely. Then she dropped the smile, and a very real fighter emerged for a minute. “Hey, I’m not going to lie,” she said, looking at the members over the rims of her eyeglasses. “I worked my ass off.” Most of us have used one excuse or another to skip the health and fitness habits. Some of those excuses are probably legitimate; a lot probably aren’t.
None of them will work on Schraufnagel, because if they did, she simply wouldn’t be here doing this well right now.


She started having multiple relapses a year that would last for weeks and sometimes months, and would greatly limit her mobility, leaving her in a wheelchair or in the hospital for days at a time.

“The only treatment option for an MS relapse is to prescribe very high-dose steroids called Prednisone,” she said. “The relapses, along with the side effects of the steroids, is one of the most awful experiences I have ever had.

“I started to really gain weight.”

She jumped to a size 10, then 12. In October 2012, she was forced to leave her job as an executive assistant at a law firm and go onto disability.

“I was only 27 and felt my life was at rock bottom,” said Schraufnagel. “I stayed home day after day unable to do anything, waiting for a once-a-month check from the government. I became very depressed and eating was my savior. I started eating anything that would make me feel better.”

She was a size 16 and didn’t recognize the woman looking back at her in the mirror. But worse than that, her health, which was already deteriorating, suffered more because of the excess weight.

“I already needed my cane and walker to help me get around due to my MS, and now that was becoming extremely challenging because of how heavy I had gotten,” said Schraufnagel. “There were nights I would go to bed and think maybe it would be easier if I just didn’t wake up the next morning.”

She calls this time in her life her dark place. It still hurts tremendously to think or talk about it.

But she’s a fighter.

“I had always been a very strong-willed woman and I knew it was there somewhere. I just had to find it,” said Schraufnagel. “I decided that even though I am not in control of this disease, I can be in control of how I treat myself and my body.”

On April 20, of 2013, Schraufnagel joined Weight Watchers. She found Susie Horter, who has been a Weight Watchers leader for 16 years, to be positive and energetic in her meetings. It helped Kasey stay focused.

“She’s never made an excuse for anything,” said Horter. “Obviously, it’s been a horrible winter and as a staff we know, when the weather is bad, attendance is low. And she’s got limitations.

“But she’s never missed a weigh-in.”

Schraufnagel followed the golden rule of Weight Watchers: If you bite it, you write it. She writes down every single thing she eats, by hand, in her food journal, and stops when that journal shows she’s had enough. The weight started dropping.

What’s really incredible is that despite her physical limitations and her very limited budget, dictated by living on a fixed income, she works out. Her parents got her hand weights and she got a $150 recumbent exercise bike from Walmart, which she uses at home at least five times a week, sometimes twice a day for 25 minutes at a time. She does this, despite the fact that her back becomes sore after standing for 20 minutes.

“I never exercised before Weight Watchers and tried to use my MS as an excuse,” she said. “I may not be able to make it to the gym because of my limitations, but I do whatever I can at home.”

Plus, she has to feel good because opening day is right around the corner. She is a devout Milwaukee Brewers fan.

“This is my time of year,” said Schraufnagel. “My boyfriend is getting scared now because it’s like nothing but baseball for eight months. I live for it. I love it. I would live at Miller Park, if I could.

“In our apartment, there’s no man cave,” she said. “There’s a woman cave. My room, I have all my signs and memorabilia. My boyfriend knows, like for gifts, I don’t want jewelry. I want Brewers things.

“He got me a used bat for Christmas — and it was like he just proposed to me. He went on a trip to San Francisco for work and I made sure he went to AT&T ballpark, the Giants’ park, and he even got some dirt from the warning track. He came home with it.

“Like, what girl is happy with dirt in a bag? I was ecstatic. I live for baseball.”

But when the Brewers aren’t a pleasant distraction, she simply has to fight for her health, a heck of a lot more than most of us have to.

And she’s winning.

“I still have the setbacks of needing to go on steroids here and there because of relapses, but now because of Weight Watchers I don't give in to the cravings like I would before,” said Schraufnagel. “While on this journey I had to go through two knee surgeries and I continued to push through and lose weight. And by the time I had the second one I had lost so much more weight my recovery was so much easier.”

Thinking about her journey to this point, it’s hard for her to even imagine where she would be if she hadn’t seized control.

“I was in a dark place. I don’t think it would have been good,” she said. “I would have surrendered to it.”

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