Annual ride raises money, awareness for baffling disease

- They call multiple sclerosis (MS) “the snowflake disease” because no two patients are alike. With more than 50 symptoms of varying intensity, the illness affects all patients differently.  Many patients will eventually lose the ability to walk, which is why Bike MS events may be considered a “ride of defiance” by participants.

This weekend, more than 800 cyclists will ride in “Bike MS: The Citrus Tour”, a 175-mile journey that begins Saturday morning in Polk City and winds through the citrus groves of Old Florida to the Omni Orlando Resort for a celebration banquet that night. Sunday morning, riders will reverse the course and cycle back to the finish line in Polk City.  This is the 30th year for the ride.

Cyclists include people living with MS, their friends and family members, and corporate teams. Participants in this year’s ride have raised more than $600,000 which will support the research and education efforts of the National MS Society.

Brad Romp is one of the cyclists. He’s been living with MS for ten years now. Friday morning, he appeared on “Good Day Tampa Bay” to tell FOX13’s viewers about how the ride has changed his life. He is also changing the lives of others: last year, he personally raised over $13,000! Watch the video above to hear more of Brad’s story.

At its core, MS is the body’s immune system attacking its central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves). Specifically, it attacks the myelin – the fatty substance that insulates nerve fibers. But science has yet to figure out exactly WHY it attacks it. There is no cure for MS.

When the myelin or nerve fiber is damaged, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain are disrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms. More common symptoms include fatigue, vision problems, numbness, involuntary muscle spasms (especially in the legs), difficulty walking, bladder and bowel problems, chronic pain, cognitive changes, and clinical depression. These symptoms are variable and unpredictable and can change or fluctuate over time. There is a progressive worsening of neurological function, as the disease transitions from inflammatory to greater nerve damage or loss. An estimated one-third of patients will eventually be unable to walk.

MS is not a fatal condition, but in rare cases it can lead to premature death from infections or pneumonia. While there is no cure for MS, medications have been able to modify the course of the disease and delay its progression. Advances in research and treatment are leading to a better understanding of the disease, and each discovery increases the likelihood of one day finding a cure.

To learn more about the disease and how you can get involved in fundraising and awareness efforts, visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org/

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