It all started in May with training. Previously my friend Liz and I had cycled five miles to the next village, had a long chat and then we cycled home.
A gradual build-up
We considered it 'proper' exercise. Very gradually over the weeks I built up to 70 miles per week. Pete, my husband, advised me to just "get hours in the saddle" so every hair, hospital, or doctor appointment meant cycling (often with the help of a train journey in the middle).
That really helped adding the distance and boosting my stamina. Three weeks before the event I experienced some cardiac side effects from the MS medication Fingolimod, AND I tripped over a rock, while out walking.
I fell so heavily I couldn't use my arms or hands for several days; with a severely swollen and bruised rib the L2B seemed to be receding from my grasp.
The last weeks saw nil training, some difficult family news (lots of crying), and chances of me going to London got even further from my reach.
But unbelievably and despite everything, my wounds from the fall healed incredibly quickly. I treated myself to rest and lots of healing specific mindfulness and the cardiologist gave me the go ahead.
I told Liz I really, really want to do this! I was concerned that at the last minute my MS body would throw a spanner in the works with another problem or incontinence on the day.
I didn't want to let Liz, Pete, or Liz's husband, Andy down and be forced to cancel at the last minute. It felt a massive pressure but mindfulness helped enormously.
The day of the cycle
I went to bed early, slept nine hours and woke to velvet-black starry night at 3.30am! Pete drove while I did an hour's mindfulness.
We arrived at Clapham, London at 7.20am, where we met Liz and Andy. We set off at 8am. The ride itself was incredible – lots of hills to literally charge down, sunshine, calm winds and all-round beauty.
I managed to cycle up every hill despite my trusty old heavy bike (many others were walking up all the hills), and at one point reached 26.8 mph whilst shouting at the top of my voice: "I really am living the life I love!"
It was completely exhilarating. There were several ghastly accidents on the way, some with severe injuries requiring the air ambulance and road to be blocked. Liz and I counted our blessings with five perfect breaks in sunny, grassy clearings, beautiful village greens, woods and fields – we couldn't have been luckier.
Our guardian angels
Like some kind of guardian angels, at every stop, Andy or Pete (or both of them) were there, giving us water, electrolytes, bananas, and words of encouragement.
I don't know how they managed to find us, but they were there at every single break the whole way. After five hours and 51 minutes in the saddle and almost nine hours after leaving Clapham Common we sped towards the finish line on Brighton seafront.
Pete told the organisers who we were, so the loudspeaker announced as we crossed the finish line: "And these two ladies are riding for Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis!"
The emotions were overwhelming – especially with Pete, Andy, Gary (fellow OMS'er) and Jan there to greet us (oh, and our little dog Alfie)! Gary gave me the most massive hug – he understood the enormity of cycling 54 miles with MS and both of us had a tear or two.
None of this would have happened in a million years were it not for the hope, and health, that following the OMS Program has given me. At the time of being given the devastating diagnosis of MS if anyone had said I would be cycling a 54-mile endurance event in 2016 I would have laughed at them.
Nor would I have thought a few months ago that it would be possible. There were a few wobbles – I had to literally drag my weak right leg up the second half of the Ditchling Beacon (the third highest point on the South Downs), I got severe shakes and uncontrollable teeth chattering (for 15 minutes) twice in the 24 hrs after, and a couple of seconds of extreme dizziness on the Monday, but I survived.
A profound moment
Liz said the most profound thing to me at the top of Ditchling Beacon: "I can see before my very eyes, today, and in the last two years, you ARE overcoming MS. It is actually happening." She said it very slowly, with quiet awe in her voice – emotional stuff.
Oddly neither Liz nor I have had any aches at all in the days since – we both put this down to the incredible health-giving nutrition the OMS diet gives us (she follows it too, despite not having MS). Love and health to you all, on our journey to recovery.