The day after I met with the doctor was my annual Birthday Ride. This year the post ride festivities took the form of a tailgate party. There were four different levels and 50+ folks showed up to ride in the cold November gray. Victor and I led the A ride on our tandem. I felt like I wanted to prove something. In spite of what I said, it wasn’t about proving we could do the 50 miles faster than the B+ group. It was about proving to myself that I am still on top of my game. I needed to feel my strength and believe that it is not going away, no matter what the doctor predicts.
For the past few months, I have been going through tests to determine the cause of a nagging pain in my neck and back. I went to the doctor over a year ago and he suggested it was an overuse injury due to my excessive riding. He recommended physical therapy and massage. That worked somewhat, but the pain didn’t go away. Last spring I had a strange bout of dizziness that lasted on and off for a couple of weeks. But, it went away, so I let it slide. Then, this summer the pain became worse and I experienced numbness in my arm. So, I went to the doctor who ordered an MRI. Many MRI’s and several blood tests later, the doctor confirmed what she had suspected after finding the lesion on my spinal cord on the first MRI- Multiple Sclerosis.
Months ago, when she first told me of the possibility, my concern was about not being able to ride my bike. Then, it slowly dawned on me that working could also become a problem. I am constantly on my feet all day long. What would happen if I couldn't work? Then I started thinking, how could this happen to me? I raise money for MS. I can’t have it! Images of slow deterioration haunted my sleep. My own body has attacked itself, the reasons for which nobody can say. It’s like some dirty trick. After all this work to make my body strong, it has turned on itself. Do I get to choose what happens now?
I say yes. After hearing about the medication options, the one that seems to make the most sense is Copaxone. It has the least side effects, but the catch is that it has to be injected daily. Ok, I can deal with that. Studies indicate there is a good chance that early medication can significantly increase remission and delay the onset of further episodes. The fact that I have remained healthy for this long is also a good sign. I don’t plan on giving up any of my ambitions. Victor and I are going to enter the Sebring 24hr race this February and not only win, but also set a new course record on the tandem.
Yesterday, as we led the group- well, by then there was just Marcus hanging on- down the last stretch, my legs were burning and I was breathing like a warthog, head down, praying for the parking lot to appear because I didn’t want to give up before the end. I hung on, and as we made the turn to the finish, I sat up and breathed a loud sigh of relief. We rode 50 miles with 2500 ft climbing in 2 ½ hours. This body still works just fine; nothing lost. As the others started riding in, we put out the coffee, cupcakes and beer, turned on the music and celebrated this life we are so lucky to enjoy.