J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” book series, acknowledges that her success with the books has put her in an “incredibly privileged position,” allowing her to “use my power for good not evil.”
Rowling started writing “Harry Potter” six months before her mother, Anne Rowling, passed away from multiple sclerosis (MS). One of her greatest regrets was that she didn’t share her writing with her mother; keeping her work secret “is one of my greatest sadnesses.” Her mother’s struggle with MS had an “enormous impact” on her, and the personal experience of living with her mother’s declining health is a significant part of who she is. Her desire to “do good” is reflected throughout her “Harry Potter” books, in her charities, and in her mother’s memory, the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh.
Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and optic nerves. It is a chronic and disabling disease that presents symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, muscle stiffness, thinking problems, urinary tract infections and blurred vision. More severe symptoms include paralysis and loss of vision. Symptoms and severity are unpredictable and vary from person to person. The first symptoms often occur between the ages of 20 and 40, and are two to three times more likely to occur in women than men.
Symptoms manifest when the protective covering, the myelin sheath, around nerve fibers is damaged. The damage develops in multiple locations on the myelin sheath. These areas progress into hardened (sclerosis) scars or plaques that disrupt signals from one neuron to another within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. Symptoms depend on the specific nerves affected and the amount of damage experienced. People with severe MS may lose the ability to walk, while others have long periods of remission without any new symptoms. There is no cure but treatments are available. The cause of MS is still unknown.
Rowling continues to provide funding for the clinic memorializing her mother and speaks out about how people can make a difference for those affected by MS. You don’t need the influence of fame and fortune, “We can change lives just by writing a letter.” she says.
The Bike the US for MS program is a tangible way you can do something for friends and families affected by MS and help give hope to the millions of people living with this debilitating disease. Bike the US for MS organizes numerous bike trips, including several cross-country rides, to raise awareness and funds in an effort to find a cure for MS. The organization provides logistics and guidance, and route leaders on the coast-to-coast trips. The route leaders have previously completed cross-country trips.
Route leaders keep you on course and on time, guide you to interesting local sights, water stops, and to overnight accommodations. They inform riders if there is a route detour or other changes, by regularly texting participants. Texts often include some inspiration particularly on tough days. They are also knowledgeable about bike maintenance and repair. A support vehicle provides back-up along the route and carries the cyclists’ supplies and gear.
On July 25, riders participated in the Bike the US for MS - Northern Tier ride, which started in Bar Harbor, Maine and finished in Seattle, Washington on August 4. They passed through Sandpoint on the 60th day of their 69-day journey. Cyclists completing the full coast to coast journey had traveled a total of 4,295 miles through 15 states.
From beautiful Bar Harbor, the gateway to Acadia National Park, the 2016 team headed west through New Hampshire and Vermont to the shores of Lake Ontario, stopping to admire Niagara Falls before gliding along the south shore of Lake Erie. As they moved through the Midwest, they followed the rolling hillsides along the Mississippi River and took in the Great Plains and Badlands. Once they arrived in western Montana, the horizontal road across the prairie began to gain elevation as riders entered Glacier National Park and crossed the Continental Divide on the Going to the Sun Road. After enjoying a relaxing day in Sandpoint, they geared-up and headed out the morning of July 27 in route to Seattle.
All participants, whether completing the full 4,295 miles or a segment of the Northern Tier route, expressed a wonderful feeling of pride and accomplishment. The enjoyment of sharing an incredible experience with friends, new and old, and the camaraderie that comes with doing something challenging for a good cause lasts a lifetime.
If you are interested in participating in a MS cycling event, but a cross-country ride is beyond your time availability and fitness level, there are many other options.
One of the many other MS cycling events is the Bike MS: Cycle the Silver Valley, which is a local two-day event. Cycling options include 20, 50, or 100 miles on the first day and 25, 35, or 50 miles on the second day. The route follows the beautiful Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes bike path through the Silver Valley, along the Coeur d’Alene River, and Lake Coeur d’Alene. In 2012, the Rails to Trails Conservancy named the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes one of the top 25 trails in the United States.
Bike MS: Cycle the Silver Valley takes place in September and is a fun event! You can ride as an individual or form a team. Last year, a team of ladies from Sandpoint, Manic Mommies, participated in this event and took the Rookie Team of the Year award! They will be back again this year for a couple of days of adventure and camaraderie and to help the National MS Society fund research, advocate for change and help people with MS live their best lives.
If you would like to support your local Sandpoint ladies, Google Bike MS: Cycle the Silver Valley, scroll down to the Teams tab and click Team List, then scroll down and click on Manic Mommies. Any amount is greatly appreciated as they help to find a cure!
If you are interested in learning more about the disease, their cycling and walking events, or how to donate, contact the National MS Society at nationalMSsociety.org or by calling 1.800.344.4867.
All of the proceeds from the 2016 rides will support research, treatment and will help with financial assistance projects. Funds from 2016 cyclists will be delivered by bike to the Swedish MS Center in Seattle, University of Virginia’s MS clinic in Charlottesville, and Fairview MS Achievement Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Contributions will also go to the National MS Society’s No Opportunity Wasted Research Campaign, which supports ongoing research for treatments and toward a cure. Funds also support financial assistance for accessibility projects.
Let’s all use our power for good and help find a cure.