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woman riding her bike down a path and the path turns into a shadowy monster representing MS

Racing the Rain

Living with multiple sclerosis is unpredictable. Unexpected things come up like severe fatigue, weakness, numbness/tingling, pain, and visual disturbances. These symptoms and more can lead to inactivity which carries its own set of unintended consequences.

Feeling strong and being active can contribute to unpredictable outcomes, sometimes at the most inopportune moments. I want to tell you about a recent such moment that had me slip-sliding on the bike trail.

Riding our bicycles

You may recall that my husband and I have been riding our bicycles quite a bit in the past two years. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve seen physical improvements in my abilities as a result. Last month we completed our second BikeMS event in Maryland where I rode about 70 miles total in two consecutive days.

This is a huge accomplishment considering that 4 years ago I could only pedal 300 revolutions on the indoor stationary bike before MS symptoms kicked in and made it difficult to climb a flight of stairs afterward.

Summer heat and optic neuritis

This summer has been very hot. I’m am very heat sensitive and at times have cut my rides short because I could not see the ground very well anymore due to damage from past attacks of optic neuritis. Call me crazy but I like to be able to see details on the ground when I’m pedaling at 13+ miles per hour.

Riding before the rain let loose

Recently, rain has also made it difficult to go riding. So when the clouds were temporarily quiet last Sunday morning and the sun was trying to peek through, I talked Rob into going riding before the rain let loose in the afternoon. Off we went.

The ride started beautifully. I felt great and was planning for us to get in about 16 miles before we had to be home to take care of other things. As we passed a low lying creek, you could see debris deposited by the flood waters that had rushed through the area on the previous day.

Approaching a sharp turn and steep climb

Approaching a sharp turn and steep climb, I saw a large patch of mud covering a portion of the trail. Tire tracks were visible in the mud, but most seemed to go through the shallow end of the clay-colored deposit. I took note as I was busy pre-shifting my gears in anticipation of the upcoming climb.

When approaching this particular turn, I typically try not to slow down too much because of that climb. I need the momentum to help boost me up the hill. But last Sunday I played it safe and slowed down just a bit.

I was almost through the muddy patch and just beginning to turn right when my back tire began to slide to the left and accelerate into a horizontal position.

My bike collided with the pavement

My right thigh and hip took the first blow as my bike collided with the pavement. Then as I slid across the ground, the pavement took a good bit of the skin off my right forearm. Not a fair exchange between me and the pavement in my estimation.

Rob rushed to my side as I came to a stop, lying on my chest with arms outstretched. After catching my breath and making sure that it was safe to move, I rolled over and sat up. Eventually Rob helped me to my feet and we walked to a nearby bench. Rob used our water bottles to rinse the dirt and mud out of my open flesh which hurt like the dickens.

Rob to the rescue

Rob cycled home to get our car to come pick me up. I wasn’t sure if I might have broken my arm or not because just the weight of it hanging straight was beginning to hurt. In hindsight, I probably hyperextended my elbow which strained tendons and ligaments. A week later, it still hurts to fully straighten or bend it, but nothing is broken. The bruises on my lower legs are healing.

Thankfully, the skin is growing back on my arm. Earlier in the week, I joked with Rob that I would be glad when the wound started itching because then I would know it was healing. He laughed and promised to remind me I said that when I start complaining of the itch driving me crazy.

We both got a good laugh.

MS was the farthest from my mind

Throughout this experience, multiple sclerosis was the farthest from my mind. I didn’t crash because of MS. I wasn’t bruised because of MS. In the end, I won’t even be itchy because of MS (at least not this time). But in a very round-about way, I was out there riding my bike to fight back against MS.

In the ER, Rob said the sweetest thing to me. He said, “I think that the riding has been good for you. You look really healthy and seem to be doing well.”

I am. I am doing well. My MS is stable. I’ve only had one relapse in the past 6 years. I’m stronger than I was 10 years ago and I’m happy to be able to get out and race the rain on occasion.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa

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Comments

  • pmm
    10 months ago

    I didn’t realize that you were a fellow cyclist, Lisa! Sorry to hear about your mud-slide, but glad that you didn’t end up with anything worse than road rash. I have a question for you: This past weekend, I participated in an MS-150 ride. Something happened that was quite alarming to me: for lack of a better word, my bike (I’ve been riding it for 20 years) just felt “twitchy” to me. I caught myself at times weaving back and forth as if I were drunk. Even more alarming was the fact that I was unable to stand on the pedals to climb the hills … I felt extremely unstable when standing and a few times nearly fell over because I was making the front tire wobble so much. I’ve cycled for most of my life, and I’ve always got out of my saddle to attack steep hills. Not being able to bike in this manner for this ride surprised and disturbed me greatly. I’m wondering if MS patients who are cyclists can lose their ability to stay balanced on a bike, and if perhaps I am experiencing the beginning of this problem? Of course I am going to take my bike to the local shop and get it checked out to make sure there is nothing mechanical that could explain the “twitchy”, but I was so disturbed during the ride that I was tearful, wondering why I couldn’t seem to bike “straight”. (I should add that I am starting to feel “unbalanced” when I walk, but seems that instability would not necessarily translate to biking).

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi PMM,

    Wow, thanks so much for riding the BikeMS 150 ride. I am relatively new to biking (just bought my ride in 2016) and am still working up my distances. You better believe that I’ll be celebrating the first time I ride more than 40 miles in a day.

    I’m sorry that you experienced the strange “twitchiness” on your ride. I know that with my balance issues, I do much, much better when I’m moving straight forward at a fair clip. If I’m going slowly (like climbing a slope), I tend to wobble or pull on the handlebars side-to-side to stay balanced.

    That’s also one reason why I hardly (if ever) stand up off the saddle to power up a hill. My bike leans side to side with each stroke and I think I use up more energy just trying to stay upright than if I just downshift and pedal faster and stay seated. I think about 3-4 strokes per leg while standing to pedal is about my current limit before things look ridiculous. LOL.

    Since you’re starting to feel unbalanced while walking, I wouldn’t discount that this could translate into your biking. I know that I use my vision a great deal to maintain balance while I’m walking, standing, or biking. If I can’t see the ground (like while wearing sunglasses and riding through a tunnel), I feel suddenly very unsteady and fearful of falling.

    It’s nice to compare notes a bit about biking with MS. I’ve still got a lot to learn about cycling efficiently. But I’m proud to say that I was able to get out and bike more than 800 miles between April-September. If the weather stays nice I’ll aim for 1000 miles before the end of the year!!

    But you might want to talk to your neurologist about the unsteadiness you are beginning to feel when walking. I know that working with a neuro physical therapist on vestibular training made a big difference in my balance issues a few years ago. Maybe you just need a PT “tune-up.” 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Lisa

  • potter
    10 months ago

    I also miss my bike, I quit about 12 years ago. This happened before I was diagnosed, I rode my bicycle nearly every day. One day on a ride my legs stopped working they wouldn’t go up and down. I walked my bicycle home and sold it. I thought I was losing my mind so I didn’t tell anyone. Potter

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi Potter,
    I’m sorry that you weren’t able to ride your bike, even to get home after your legs stopped cooperating. That must have been really scary and frustrating. I’m glad that you’ve told us here. Thanks for sharing.
    Lisa

  • ClumsyMumsy2
    10 months ago

    I must bow to your enviable drive to remain active! I am glad you are healing up. Keep us updated on how you are doing. Not to make you jealous, but your hubby is a KEEPER!!!! LOL

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi ClumsyMumsy2,

    Thanks so much! I believe he is a keeper too. There are days that I don’t feel like doing much, but then I think about how good it feels to be active.

    I’m doing really well now. Skin has completely healed over and I may only have a small scar. I’ve still got a goose egg on my leg, but it is finally smaller. 🙂

    I hope you’re doing well.

    Best, Lisa

  • Carol
    10 months ago

    Lisa Emrich,

    I am so glad that your MS is stable and you are able to get out there and bike. I really missed riding on my bicycle. There was a time when I belonged to a hostel club and we went on lots of overnight trips bicycling to various locations. It was a great time for all of us and I sure miss it. I have my memories though.

  • Lisa Emrich moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks so much! Sounds like you had some great adventures traveling with your bike and friends. That is something that Rob and I haven’t tried.

    I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be doing so well. It was 10 years ago that I had trouble standing up from a seated position and had to pull on furniture to get up because of weak legs.

    So many things have changed….for the better since then.

    Best, Lisa

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