So far, everything I’ve done this morning has been a little off; putting dishes away and banging them against things, pulling the dental floss and too much comes out. These are the little things that you start to pay attention to when you have this disease.
This lack of focus or neuromuscular control can be a real problem when I do the thing I love, mountain biking. Things like crashing, broken bones, bruises and concussions can happen. So, I have learned to pay attention to these little clues and tell myself to try and be more focused when I ride and, even harder, to be forgiving when things go wrong.
Most of us think we can’t do something as physically challenging as mountain biking if we have MS. I’m grateful that so far that hasn’t been true for me. It has changed my riding over the years, but I’m stubborn and unwilling to let go of what brings me joy.
Mountain biking has been an amazing personal journey for me. I did my first mountain bike race on a borrowed bike and came in last place. It was the most fun I’d had as an adult and I wanted more. So, I went out and bought my own mountain bike, and my then husband threatened to divorce me. Mountain biking changed me in a way that I was missing. I was finally doing something that gave me joy and made me feel whole. The physical exertion, mental focus, athleticism and ability to push through fear changed me forever. I started racing mountain and cyclocross bikes, joined a racing team and immersed myself in the race culture. I was finally starting to live my best life. But this meant I had to give up relationships that held me back and were unhealthy. I divorced my husband of 25 years.
Mountain biking has given me a sense of community. I met my current husband through mountain biking, and we continue to have amazing adventures together. Throughout our relationship I’ve had MS, but recently got diagnosed four years ago. I’m proud to say I raced at the state, national and international level with MS. I also believe that racing helped to keep my disease at bay. Racing is painful. Racing with MS is unforgivingly painful at times and very frustrating. The lack of progression (my competitors would continue to get stronger when they trained) was frustrating. I was competitive and liked to win, but I started noticing that the harder I pushed my body, the weaker it got. I didn’t get stronger when I trained harder and blamed myself. Never did I think it was MS.
But it was MS. Getting the diagnosis was devastating but also explained a lot. The inconsistency in racing results, the inability to recover from hard efforts, crashing even though I always rode within my means. Knowing it was a disease helped me to stop blaming myself. For that I’m grateful.
I’m also extremely grateful for my husband who went into research mode the minute I was diagnosed. As I dealt with my new reality, he was out learning about the disease, drugs, diet, supplements and whatever he could get his hands on to battle this. He’s a fighter and is also very stubborn – both qualities that helped to pave my way after being diagnosed. We found OMS, I fired my first neurologist, started taking LDN, and found a neurologist who believed in both, and I started my new journey with MS.
I love how good I feel from eating right and taking care of my body. Exercise, following the OMS lifestyle (though I still struggle with meditation, I won’t lie) and keeping my stress as low as possible are the gifts from my diagnosis. I keep using words like grateful, joy, community, gifts because that’s how I feel. When I got diagnosed, I joined an online MS group. I thought I was doomed. Then I read the OMS book, got the heck out of that group, and surrounded myself with like-minded people who refuse to let the disease define who we are, but to live our best life with the disease.
Cycling is the future
So now I ride my bike with friends, am the last up every climb, don’t descend like a rocket, lose my balance, and sometimes crash into things because I have little peripheral vision in my right eye. Racing is in the rearview mirror, and my focus now is riding my bike for as long as I am able. And when I’m not, I’ll get an electric bike!
For me, cycling and MS have always been intertwined. I don’t know one without the other. I am constantly having to evolve how I ride, supplements, medication dosage, new medication, etc. to manage my MS, but the one constant is my passion to ride my mountain bike, and the community it gives me. I am motivated to do whatever it takes to keep cycling in my life, and I know the OMS lifestyle will help me to achieve this important goal.