For the fourth year, I will be participating in the Oklahoma Bike MS event. The last three years it was known as the Mother Road Ride, having a large portion of the route follow good ol’ Route 66 from Tulsa to OKC. Admittedly, it was pretty awesome to make that last left turn south and a couple miles off see the capital building in the distance.
This year’s a little different though. Instead of going between the two largest cities in Oklahoma, we’ll be doing out-and-back rides on day 1 starting and ending in Chandler, the overnight rest stop location for the last few years. Day 2 will include part of last year’s second-day route, and a good portion looping back along route 66 to Chandler. The idea is to make it easier logistically for all the teams, and to make it fair for teams traveling from OKC and Tulsa.
Why this event? Why support fundraising for MS research? What does “MS” stand for?
Unfortunately, as with many fundraising events, the fundraising organization often gets more recognition than what they’re raising money for. People are more familiar with those little pink ribbon loops than the fact that they’re raising money for breast cancer research. People recognize those yellow bracelets and think “Lance Armstrong” (and now perhaps “doping”), not fighting cancer and assisting those living with it.
People have heard of Bike MS throughout the country because there are 100 rides for the MS Society. But what’s it all about? Well, let’s get some info first. “MS” stands for multiple sclerosis. That might not mean much on it’s own, but what it is is a chronic and often degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system. Basically, the immune system starts to attack the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, optic nerves) making them fail or behave unpredictably.
There are different types of multiple sclerosis (relapsing-remitting, primary-progressive, secondary-progressive, and progressive-relapsing). They’re defined by how they progress, and each can range from mild, to moderate, to severe. About 200 new cases are diagnosed each week in the US. With millions afflicted, why isn’t it more commonly known and/or understood?
For one thing, MS is often not terminal. Unlike heart disease and cancer, people with multiple sclerosis can live a long time. Some might be tempted to think, “Hey, then that’s not as bad as something like cancer, right?” Well, depends on what you mean by “bad”. Yes, various cancers and heart disease have higher mortality rates.
But here’s the kicker: most MS patients are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and that patient will have a lifetime of living with a disease that by its very nature is unpredictable. You see, unlike other diseases, the symptoms of MS vary from person to person. They even progress on different paths, at different rates, and different severities. It can be something small like numbness in the limbs, fatigue, and/or vision problems. But it gets worse from there: walking, balance and coordination issues, cognitive dysfunction, depression, seizures, complete loss of vision, and even paralysis.
It’s hard enough going through life not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Can you imagine not knowing whether you’ll even have the same abilities when it comes time to face the unknown tomorrow? Or the day after that? The month? The year? The decades? There currently is no cure for MS. There are FDA-approved medications that have been shown to slow down the underlying course of MS, but not stop it.
So after all that’s said, why am I riding and raising funds for the MS Society? Ultimately, because I’d like to eliminate this ride. I can hear you now: “What? That doesn’t make sense! I thought you supported the MS Society and their goals!” Yep, absolutely. And if my donation and riding 150+ miles can encourage others to donate as well, then some day we’ll be able to say, “Remember when people used to have MS, and people rode the MS-150 to find a cure…”
I look forward to that day. I look to when we will no longer need to have this ride. Until then, I will do what I can to help all of us some day live in a world without multiple sclerosis.
To donate to my fundraising efforts, click here.