Photo source: Lancepekus.com
Anyone who follows the American Ninja Warrior series is familiar with one of the favorites, ‘Cowboy Ninja’ Lance Pekus. This is his sixth season on the show.
The TV competition is a spinoff of the Japanese Ninja Warrior show, Sasuke, which no longer airs.
Lance stands out from the other contenders in his jeans, shirtless torso, and black cowboy hat. Back in Salmon, Idaho, he’s a husband, father of two, herds cattle for his father-in-law and works for the U.S. Forest Service (Idaho Statesman).
In Stage One of the recent ninth season of Warriors, Lance was in the top five, and the fastest competitor, earning his right to compete in the Stage Two National finals. However, Lance failed to negotiate a Stage Two obstacle and lost his vie to move onto Stage Three of the 2018 season’s competition.
All 41 finalists had their eyes on the $1 million-dollar prize. Equally important was their chance to pit their bodies against the most extreme challenge of gymnastic prowess: ‘Mount Midoriyama’. The ‘Mount’ is the final challenge for the American Ninja competition. It is split into four horizontal stages, built one atop the next. It consists of 23 obstacles, and concludes with the final contest of skill: a 75-foot rope climb to be completed in less than 30 seconds. This event will usher in the 2018 series. Only three contenders made it through Phase Two to return next season for this Phase three competition.
As for Lance, Ninja is not the only battle he’s been fighting. Lance and his wife Heather share an ongoing struggle with her incurable and progressive disease of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Heather was diagnosed with MS in her early 20s, and had taken medications that allowed her to go 8-9 years without symptoms. At present, Heather’s body is not responding to the medication and her symptoms have returned (Lance Pekus, in 7 KTVB video).
Heather has been a School Counselor at the Salmon School District (LinkedIn).
Heather shares on the same 7 KTVB video, that she had been active, ran and lifted weights, and rode horses. (According to Lance, she had also helped around the ranch.) But over the past one and a half years, her condition has taken a turn for the worse. On toofab, Heather explains, "We tried a whole bunch of medicine and treatments, but my body just doesn't respond."
Heather’s walk has become halting and stiffened, and her words slurred, as observed on the KTVB video. To get around (and to reduce her risk of falling), Heather now uses a walker. When going outside, Lance carries her.
Heather hasn’t been physically able this season to travel to Vegas for Lance’s competitions. However, she and the kids have watched him via Skype. On toofab, Lance says in their video, “It's hard to see the person you love just fall apart.”
On that same video, Heather says she’s always been a “positive person” and wants her kids to remember her that way.
Lance remains Heather’s fully committed supporter and says she is going through much harder stuff in life than he faces on the Ninja course.
Heather and Lance
As Heather says, “I've never imagined having this but I've always been a really positive person and I want my kids to remember me that way." Although Heather’s future trials with MS are unknown, there is one solid positive: Lance will always be there to love and help her. On Lance’s ‘About’ page, he, Heather, and their kids are photographed as a solid family unit. On this site, Lance praises his wife and her life accomplishments.
It’s just undeniable: Lance and Heather have a strong marriage and prioritize their family life. They can sustain the pressures caused by this challenge.
Factors, complications, and treatment of MS
There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why separate courses of MS disease occur. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, factors that increase a person’s risk for developing MS include having a parent or sibling with the illness, a history of an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (such as mononucleosis), or if you are a Caucasian female.
Complications from multiple sclerosis can include paralysis of the legs, mood swings, depression, muscle stiffness and spasms. Seizures may also occur. For those folks who can no longer bear their weight, or move about in bed, they become essentially bed and chair bound, making them candidates for pressure sores.
Treatment of MS includes injectable medications to slow disease progression. To treat relapses, steroids are given to reduce nerve inflammation. If indicated, a blood plasma exchange may be performed. An oral medication, ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), is the only FDA-approved medication to slow the progression of MS. If muscle stiffness, problematic urinary incontinence, or seizures should occur, there are oral medications to treat these conditions.
Also, rehabilitation therapy can assist those with MS to improve their mobility and balance with the use of canes or wheelchairs. The occupational therapy piece of this program can also teach how to use adaptive equipment to dress themselves, do other personal care, and perform everyday tasks.