Article Date: 4/1/2009

Cycling For a Cure
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Cycling For a Cure

Riding your bike can help cure a disease that affects vision.

JEFFRY D. GERSON, O.D., F.A.A.O. SHAWNEE, KAN.

Roughly seven years ago, a friend invited me to join him to train for and participate in a Bike MS event. I agreed and have been thankful for my decision ever since. The event is an annual and national non-competitive cycling series sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society that raises money for research toward a cure for MS.

The mettle to pedal

I decided to participate in Bike MS because it married my interests: cycling, optometry and affecting change.

I love the hours of solitude and quiet that cycling provides. I find there's no better time to reflect on the happenings in my life and in the world than while riding my red racing bike. Physically, I never feel more healthy.

MS has several ocular manifestations. They include optic neuritis, diplopia, esotropia and nystagmus. Because many of my patients see me more often than their primary-care practitioner and these ocular manifestations are often the first sign of the disease, I'm sometimes the first healthcare practitioner to identify MS in a patient.

In addition to some of my patients having MS, some of my extended family members and friends also have the chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Given the importance of these individuals in my life, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play a role in eventually eradicating this debilitating disease — especially when cycling was involved.

Dr. Gerson celebrates with his son, Gilly, after a Bike MS event.

Bike MS offers more than 100 rides of varying skill level. The event my friend and I participated in was a 150-mile two-day ride. We started in Kansas City, Mo. for a 100-mile trek to Sedalia, Mo. and returned the next day for the 50-mile finish from Sedalia to Knob Noster, Mo. Along the course, Bike MS volunteers held up flags and posters with the dollar amounts raised by top fundraisers. This was not only motivating, but reminded us of the good we were doing.

Still in the saddle

September 2008 was the seventh time I participated in the Bike MS event. I'm happy to report that I've raised nearly $20,000 since my first ride. Initially, I thought raising funds would be a daunting task. In actuality, however, it's become a fun ritual that my family and friends expect in the form of a letter. And, they are always very generous with their donations. (To participate in any of the Bike MS events, you must raise a minimum of $250.)

Through the last several years, I've concentrated on getting my colleagues involved in donating money as well. Not only do I ask fellow O.D.s to support Bike MS, but I've also begun asking optical lab owners, pharmaceutical and contact lens representatives and eyecare executives. All have contributed funds, commenting that they either know someone affected by MS or believe it's a worthwhile cause.

If you enjoy cycling, I encourage you to consider participating in a Bike MS event in your state. (Visit www.bikems.org). Remember: It's an organized ride, not a race. This means you don't have to be Lance Armstrong to participate. Bike MS offers easy, moderate and challenging bike rides. You simply have to have a bike and the desire to make a difference in a disease that, if it hasn't already, will most definitely end up in your chair. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2009