My name is Chris Stoddard and I cycle in the MS Gong Ride to support people living with MS – one of them is my father.
My dad’s name is Peter and we enjoyed being involved in all things to do with fitness. Together, we ran, sailed and cycled. But then Dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 and our world would never be the same.
Ten years ago, dad and I ran in a 10.5km run at Lake Macquarie. Dad mentioned that day that when he bent his neck he experienced a mild electric shock. He knew straight away it wasn’t normal.
Soon after, Dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and it was clear that he would never run again but, in Dad’s words: “I could still walk, sail, and ride my bike. I would just adjust to the new normal,” said Peter.
In the year following his diagnosis, Dad developed an obvious limp and his balance deteriorated. He was still sailing but became really concerned about falling off the boat and so he gave it up too.
However, Dad was determined to not let the disease get the better of him and finally found a medication that stabilised his condition. Luckily, Dad could still ride his bike.
“I continued riding my bike every day to work. Longer rides were punctuated by lengthy rest periods, but riding was a privilege I embraced with a new appreciation,” said Peter.
After three years the medication had to be discontinued and a build up of fatigue and impaired mobility followed. Dad had to park his bike permanently, stop driving and start using a walking stick.
A few years on, and Dad is in a wheelchair.
So, in support of my dad and everyone living with MS, as long as my legs continue to work I will keep challenging myself in the MS Gong Ride. No matter how tough it gets, I think about how Dad would love to be doing the ride with me and am thankful that I can get on a bike and ride.
It's not an easy challenge, but as we all take on this ride together, please know how much your support means to people living with MS and their carers.
MS strikes people in the prime of their lives. It's a lifelong diagnosis, and it can be absolutely terrifying.
Your ride will make a difference to people like Dad, helping them adjust to their 'new normal'.
Thank you for joining me this October, as we go the distance and ride to fight MS.