Strong and Ill


There are bigger things at play in the world than MS. And than cycling.

In the last few weeks my extended group of friends has seen tragedy, and births – so I write this somewhat cautiously, wondering whether there should be room on the internet for such trivia; but the latest developments in my MS are interesting (or perplexing) enough to be worth sharing.


Every month my bike club does a Hill Climb Challenge – with members recording timed ascents of a nominated road around Bristol. The proper racers, finely tuned machines that they are, tend to eshew this format to focus on actual events. but, for hacks like me, it provides a (very) light-hearted bit of competition. In January, I was the fastest rider (for the first time since early 2015). I hadn’t been doing too many miles, and felt as though I had more of a kick in my cycling legs than I’ve had for awhile. Towards the end of the month, I then did a couple of longer weekend rides: firstly, a tentative one; then more confidently. Last week, I rode a “100”, non-stop (apart from a couple of punctures). I’m not going to get the fastest time this month, but I set a respectable mark that others will need to try if they’re going to beat….

But I don’t type the above to show off – believe me when I say I’m beaten enough to know how slow I ride compared to actual athletes, (I still remember trying to join a Bristol-based chain gang of road cyclists 3 weeks in a row… and riding a cumulative distance of about 500 metres before I was dropped by the group…) No – I type the above because it sets the scene as to how fit I feel at the moment. In summary, for the first time since late last summer, I feel strong on my bike; and I’ve long used my cycling-health as a barometer for my MS-health. MS symptoms – muscle fatigue or shakes; and numbness or pins and needles slow me down; their absence speeds me up.

How odd then that I also now feel too ill to work.

Psychologically I would say that I feel “upbeat” –  “chipper” even. When my early alarm sounded this morning, I felt well rested and ready for the day.

But I can’t see properly.

My vision is disorientated and confused. I’m trying to type numbers onto gridlines on a computer but can’t get them in the right rows.

I am happily sitting through meetings at work, feeling pretty buoyant, but, as has been an longstanding symptom, I am struggling to hold a pen dextrously enough to write notes.

It’s confusing.

It’s “optical neuritis”.

The advice is that is ‘usually’ passes, or diminishes, after 3-5 weeks. But 3% of MS patients go on to experience temporary or permanent blindness…. The last time I had it, I recall it lasting about a month before it gradually subsided. But, for now, I’m back to stalling at work; attending meetings instead of typing results; and booking half-days…

Strangely though, I feel quite happy – pleased that I’m racing around on my bike. Not sure if this credits my cycling as a valuable crutch; or suggests that my life priorities are utterly wrong – you certainly don’t get paid much cycling at my pace….


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