An essay written by Going for Ten Thousand founder Becky Hall during her senior year of high school, a year before GF10k started.
Charlie scares me. Traditionally, I spend the first weekend of August as one of his angels, and each year, the legally blind man greets me with a warm smile from his wheelchair. This past summer, he spent only the first morning with us, but his absence brought me to tears. Charlie reminds me of what my mom could become.
I consider with fear what Charlie once was: an active father and avid cyclist. Twelve years ago, doctors diagnosed him with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and ten years ago, they told my mom the same thing. I met Charlie after my mom’s diagnosis in 2000, the first year I volunteered on the MS150 Bike Tour. As a nine-year-old, I observed nothing striking about him. I didn’t fully understand what MS was, but I could generally separate the healthy from the unhealthy. Like my mom, there didn’t seem to be anything outwardly wrong with him.
Today, Charlie Siewert is physically a shadow of who he once was. His MS has visibly taken its toll. First he walked with a cane, now he watches from his wheelchair. My mom’s MS hasn’t followed the same path and I don’t intend on allowing it to. That is why the first weekend of August, the weekend I spend as a member of Charlie’s MS Angels, has become the most important two days of my year.
Last summer, I spent an hour on the road with Elliot, Charlie’s son. We talked about our rival high schools, our bikes, and eventually our parents. He told me about his dad falling asleep in hallways. When going from room to room in their house, Charlie falls asleep. Charlie doesn’t scare me. MS scares me. Why should an active mother or father be virtually robbed of their body?
I do what I can and bike because it’s one way I can help towards a cure. While I can’t make breakthrough discoveries in a laboratory, I can pedal over hills, down valleys, and past cornfields. When I struggle and consider dismounting, I slap myself in the face. My temporary exhaustion can’t compare to my mom’s constant fatigue. I tend to forget the daily battle my mom endures because she masks it well; she won’t complain about her numb legs or tingly arms. So, I’ll tolerate a sore butt if it means that my mom may not have to tolerate a lifetime of MS.
Since my mom’s diagnosis, I have volunteered twice and biked in the MS150 seven times: six tours in Wisconsin and one tour in Texas. I have wiped out four times and gotten lost twice. I have never walked my bike up a hill, but I have summited at four miles per hour. I’ve seen people who should never wear spandex and others who I wish would wear spandex daily. I have biked over 1,000 miles and have raised over $5,000 for Multiple Sclerosis. I like to think the world, Charlie, and my mom are closer to a cure for this effort.