Jennifer Hopkins is training for her second Ironman triathlon, intending to repeat her feat of finishing the grueling race in 2009.
Completing an Ironman is a major accomplishment for any athlete. It was a much greater challenge for the 31-year-old Ottawa resident, a foreign service officer and lawyer with the federal government who has multiple sclerosis and two other autoimmune diseases.
“I had always wanted to do the Ironman and said that I would do it when I was healthier,” says Hopkins, who was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease, as a teenager and warned she was unlikely to be able to continue participating in most sports.
Because this condition resulted in her having symptoms similar to some symptoms of MS, it wasn’t until 2007, when she was articling after obtaining her law degree, that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Shortly afterwards, she learned she also had lupus, a chronic systemic disease that can attack any part of the body and cause tissue damage.
“My initial reaction was shock,” she says.
“Then I said this isn’t the first stumbling block I’ve encountered and I’m going to do whatever I can to try to live the best that I can and stay as positive as I can.”