Thursday, May 3, 2007

Why I'm Going to MS Camp

2006 River Road Run
A short novel by Doug Lyon

This year was different. I wasn’t looking forward to it. It seemed my third year of fundraising was a toil and a huge effort I was not looking forward to. Not having a motorcycle yet, makes things a challenge. Not for the ride, but friendships too. So, when you least expect it, and at your least motivated, you buck up, and do it. You find out some things you like least about yourself and your best friends but realize still you can discover the true meaning of Christmas.

So the story begins. With in 2 months and 2 weeks, I worked with my last year riding mate, Jayne (who raised over $2,000 last year) to get properly insured on her bike. Didn’t happen. I was thinking about renting, but decided to not ride a motorcycle. I could go down with the MS staff and help with check-in of the riders… and I did. I rode with Michele Mehrer.

Ghost of Christmas Past
I met Michelle a couple of years ago, and I want to tell you a short bit about her. She has MS. Seven years ago, she walked with two canes. Five yeas ago she needed a wheel chair to get around. She is an amazing person. She works and has her own business.

She is fun, has a great attitude, personality, and is friendly as a person can be. It sounds like I am trying to set her up with a nice boy. Michelle very much makes people feel comfortable around her.

We rode down with her to Lacrosse, WI, in her van that has been made assessable for her with a hand break and accelerator. She has an automatic seat that slides back so she can maneuver to get on her wheel chair, open up the ramp, and go. Actually, the state of MN has grants available to people who work and have a disability. She gets assistance for her mini-van, and some other things related to helping her to continue to work.

Michelle can’t move her legs, and now wears loose pants that pull up under her legs so she can use the material to help her to lift up her legs. So, her life is normal; pretty much, but not. Flying and travel is difficult. She drives around just like us, and works, and owns her own house.

Michelle also has a pump inside her the size of a hockey puck which pumps muscle relaxers directly into her spine to distribute them. She suffers from painful muscle spasms and needs a constant dose to manage pain. She is also on “uppers” of course legal, to keep her awake and fight the fatigue MS gives her. That keeps her up, and she can feel the elevation in her heart rate as well. The pump I told you about is in her, not attached; it is surgically installed to constantly manage her pain. It is a really cool piece of technology. Something you wouldn’t know much about, unless you or a friend needed it.

But to meet her once, and say hello, all you would think is that she doesn’t walk. You would think she is perfectly healthy. She is otherwise normal. Actually, she is. By the way, I am glad I rode with her. It was great to get to know her and more about her life. She, like you and me, is just matter of fact, matter of life; this is what is what my life is like. She is still living it.

Ghost of Christmas Present
I get the award. The family arrived before the banquet. Steve, Roseann, and Henne and Fargo, came to be a part of the dinner where I would be recognized as the top fundraiser for the 2nd year in a row for this event. I liked that! I was proud, and I did it again. I want to do it once more…But, I really don’t want to do it anymore. Man, it seems like so much work to fundraise.

Besides thinking I am a drag every year on all of you for this fundraising effort. You are over me. Tired of this... Perhaps finding it obligatory... The mailing, the stamps, the writing the letters, the emailing, the reminders... The pressure! Actually, I feel like I need to stop fundraising (I think) so you don’t use up your supporters. Or is it you just don’t want to put out the effort any more?

The 2nd place fundraiser this year was only $995 below me. I beat her the year before too. I raised $7,500. Last year, $12,000. She kicked it up a notch. That was amazing. That had to take an effort I couldn’t imagine.

So, up to now, I have worked hard to do something, and it was looking back, not too hard. This year it was hard. For the moment I enjoyed my recognition and felt a twinge of guilt for not riding a motorcycle. Have I deceived my supporting contributors?

With this feeling I realized that, you know however, they support you, not because you ride a motorcycle, but they support you. Much of the program at our banquet was about the effort all of us have made to support MS. Not the 2 top fundraisers, or only the people over $2K, but all of us. All of us are helping people with MS.

Crossing the finish line, or Ghost of Christmas Future.
This year the end of the ride was quite a ways away from Minneapolis at Camp Courage, West of Buffalo, MN. (60+ miles from home) This week was the week the camp would host those campers with MS. Everyone of us riders were encouraged to go to the finish, as they had a grand finish, BBQ, and tours of the camp for all of us on the ride. It was new, and it was important.

I took my family, and drove home that night. Sleeping in my own bed seemed to be one of the best parts of the weekend, and well worth the sacrifice of driving late to get home that night. Right. Not quite. I slept lightly. I decided I wanted to finish the ride. Even if I drive my car, I want to go and cross the finish line. After all, it was pretty important for those riding. My original thoughts were simple. Go that night; get my award, and not planning to ride again next year. Easy, and all done.

On the dog walk that morning, I called Jayne and asked what she was doing. In one fell swoop, I was able to fix us, and get out with her to Camp Courage. We rode together, and crossed the finish line together on her new motorcycle. The big finish was about to come. It was an amazing to cross. We were in the first group of bikers. About 50 campers were cheering us across. Everyone was grateful and supportive.

We made our way to the barbeque. I helped a woman from Inver Grove, Doris, who was in a wheel chair, fix her plate. When I was seated to eat, a woman from the camp wanted to thank us and rolled up in her wheel chair and read her prepared script about how MS had affected her life first from diagnosis, to it affecting her enough to stop working, and now she was wheel chair bound and needed daily assistance. She thanked all of us for our efforts and let each of us know how important what we did was to her and to people with MS. I was touched and felt better that I thought to get up and finish. I thanked her and let her know that I too had MS.

Right after that moment, I was swelling up. I was so touched. Then I tried to continue to eat, and I saw Doris. She was trying to eat her sandwich. She couldn’t get her arms to go high enough to get it in her mouth. I was hit hard. I lost it. You know how difficult it is for so much emotion to hit you with pulled pork in your mouth. To cry so hard when you are eating is very difficult.

Jayne, hit in the same way, got up and went out to look to look out the window. Seeing how emotional she was, did not help me. The woman couldn’t even eat. She couldn’t even feed herself. I was not so taken because I thought someday that could be me. NO. It was just that she couldn’t even feed herself.

I take so much for granted. What freedom I have. I can do anything, by myself, every day. Each and every day, I do what I want to effortlessly. And then thinking about the things that really bug me and what I get angry about. And then to see someone who cannot even eat by themselves. It makes you think, and can hit you hard. It did hit me very hard!

Jayne saw what a downer I had to be. I was probably affecting the rest of the camp. She came to the rescue. “Doug! come over here and look out this window.” It was only a few feet away. We talked about it a bit, and knew how lucky we were. And realized how important it was to do the ride again.

We really do help people. And they really do need the help we do give them. We make things possible. The view out the window was nice. The swimming dock and lake the campers would be using. I realized at that moment I wanted to do more, and I wanted to take my picture with Doris at the finish line. She keeps going. She has no choice. Every day for her is a finish line. And there are many people willing to help her cross it every day.

A moment later, Doris was with some others and eating now. Somehow the lever control of her wheelchair was caught under the table; pushing her forward into the table. First quietly she said, “Someone help me”. No one heard the first time. “I need some help over here! She loudly called out. They heard and helped her out. A little while later, Doris and I went up and crossed the finish line. When asked what she was going to do all week, she said enthusiastically,
“I am going to have some fun!”

Jayne and I had a solemn ride home. Part of the ride was spent thinking about how we are going to do it next year, and who we are going to have ride with us. Not worrying about how many of my friends we may be bugging for fundraising or how much work it will be. So inspired by thoughts of Michelle, I thank you so much for helping me cross the finish line and supporting my efforts for those living with MS to do the same.

I leave you with two quotes which began to impact my life. One from Doris. “I need some help over here!” My motto for continued fundraising efforts, and my motto for living my life next year, “I am going to have some fun!”

And two quotes from Scrooge aka: A Christmas Carol.

Portly Gentleman: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.

Ebenezer: Why?

Tiny Tim: God bless us, every one!

This is My MS.

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