Cycling with MS
I have asked the same question of every healthcare professional I have met since diagnosis – will cycling in any way worsen my MS condition? And the answer has always been “no”.
I find myself repeating this to myself from time to time.
“No – it will not”.
I’d set off on my downhill ride to work and some heavy rain had set in. I hadn’t felt right from the moment I woke up – and my body felt badly out of kilter. Barely a couple of miles from home and I’d had to pull off the road. I had a complete lack of strength in my legs, my arms muscles were buzzing and it felt as though my bike was hardly moving. But I couldn’t stop for long because of the rain – my hands were starting to get numb – so I pointed onwards and carried on.
I had built up some ‘time-off in lieu’ with work so had planned a cycle ride that morning – but now it wasn’t going to happen. I badly felt under the weather all day and went to bed at 8pm.
Then the next day I woke with a start at 4am feeling top of the world. Eventually I gave up trying to go back to sleep, crept out of the house so as not to wake the family and wheeled out my bike for a ride at sunrise – a day late.
I felt strong and rode fast through the clear, bright morning on car-free roads. Wonderful. And confusing.
When I was a young boy I remember being fascinated with the Guiness World of Records. Of course, the athletic exploits of the likes of Carl Lewis or Bob Beamer were awesome – but it was the human curiosities that led to my real wonderment: the fattest man alive; the lady that had sneezed continuously for 30 years; the man with the long fingernails; or the giant hands. The ‘Oldest Man Alive’. Last week I was out on my bike and I started timing how often I was needed to stop and wee. About every 40 minutes. It was so reliable that one-time I thought I’d trick the symptom and stop in anticipation – but the tactic failed. I wondered what weird twist on the “normal” my body would become – what it was morphing into that I didn’t recognise.
Over this last fortnight my MS condition has kept introducing new unnerving symptoms. I briefly lost partial use of my right hand. Three times I lost my sense of balance for a couple of minutes. The skin on my legs started going bright pink after every warm shower. And I experienced what they call “an MS hug”. I can only describe this as the feeling that cold water was trickling down my back (I actually thought I’d brushed against something wet) – but then the sensation spread around my waist and I realised that it was just another MS-oddity.
I recalled the classic sci-fi ‘horror’ film, “The Fly”, in which Jeff Goldblum (for reasons best left unexplained!) slowly transforms into the insect. The fear that viewers seemed to empathise with was the morbid fascination with which he slowly witnesses the ghastly metamorphosis that was taking place. A healthy man watching himself slowly leaving his humanity. I poke fun at myself and make this cinematic reference light heartedly – but it has been a disconcerting couple of weeks for me.
10 mile time-trials
No long bike races this year. That’s the remit. Elevated body temperatures are causing me vision issues; and the bounds of my revised capacity for prolonged exertion remain something I do not want to push too hard.
But 10 mile time trials? A 25 minute race against the clock? I thought I’d try the annual club event this weekend. I anticipated being slow, a bit blurry during and probably excessively exhausted afterwards. I was paranoid I’d need to stop halfway and go to the loo….
As it happens I felt weirdly overweight (despite the issues I’ve been having keeping weight on); wheezy; and unfit. But then I rode in on my road bike at under 25minutes which (narrowly) is a new PB for me.
No one cares or notices my times apart from me – but I was pleased despite being nearer last than to first. My vision went a bit blurry in the car park afterwards – but, here I am, with MS; still very much alive. Still out on my bike.
Today score was: Cyclist 1; MS 0.
A good day.