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I found this advice on a wonderful site called Active MSers (activemsers.com). It was written by a cyclist with MS who wanted to share some of his tips for managing the heat, a very common element that cause a patients symptoms to magnify significantly, while riding during the spring and summer months.

While written primarily for MS patients, it’s actually really good fundamental advice for anyone training or racing in the south, especially beginners or those coming back after a long layoff.

So, check out the great advice below and please share with our fellow riders in the Bike MS events.

“A number of people have asked me how I handle the heat on a bike. As a person with MS, there is no doubt that I am considerably more sensitive to heat than most cyclists out there, but there are a couple of things I have found that help.

Keep moving. There is such a thing as “resting on the bike”, lower the intensity of the effort but keep pedaling to maintain airflow and its cooling effect. It took a while to condition myself to do this but maintaining airflow is key to staying cool for me.

Stop in the shade. I try not to stop any longer than necessary to grab a breath, a pee, a bite or a drink. The longer I stop, the harder it is to get going again. Even the ambient warm air temp in the shade sucks nerve function out of me.

Dress. I tend to under dress. I dress more for the expected high temperature than the starting temperature. If it’s really cold when I start, I wear removable arm and leg warmers. I use proper cycling clothes that are generally designed for comfort and cooling.

Helmet. I got a new helmet late last year, it has about twice the number of air vents as my old helmet but they are smaller vents and they seem to have made the helmet noticeably warmer. I will get another helmet with larger vents before the weather heats up this year and I hope that will be a cooler solution.

Water. I carry two slightly oversize water bottles. When it really gets hot and I can’t generate enough airflow to cool or have to stop for a breath on a hill in the sun, I pour water on myself. On hot days I soak myself whenever I stop to refill my bottles. Also, the hotter it is, the more I drink. It makes me pee a lot but the cyclists’ adage is, “if you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough” and it’s all the truer for an MSer.

Conditioning. I have found that by not avoiding rising temperatures during training I am able to condition myself somewhat to tolerate a slightly higher range. I’d put this somewhere around being able to tolerate up to mid 70’s in the early season to being able to tolerate up to high 80’s in the later season. It can get pretty uncomfortable and if I really overheat, it is still devastating.

Special cooling stuff. I don’t own any special cooling stuff but I did try a freebie that was provided on the MS ride last year. It was a special water absorbent cloth tube about 2 ft. long and 2-in. in diameter that you wore around your neck. It felt pretty good, really good actually but it needed a snap or a tie to keep it from falling off. I caught mine several times before it finally did manage to fall. When it fell, it wrapped itself around my pedal and left a tail dragging dangerously close to my rolling rear wheel. You should have seen the cyclists around me scatter when they saw what happened. They were obviously expecting the worst. If the thing had fallen on the chain ring side, I would have been stuffed, but fortunately it fell on the left side which is also my strongest side. You can’t just slam on a panic stop when you’re in the middle of a lot of bikers like that either so, I stopped pedaling but kept rolling along. I proceeded to unclip my left foot and manipulate the pedal crank until the cooling strap was only loosely draped over the pedal. Then, with a couple of uncoordinated but gingerly placed steps on the tail, I managed to drag it off the crank and leave it on the ground behind me. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than 20 or 30 seconds but man, did I ever get accolades from the bikers around me! I’m sure they were ecstatic when they didn’t have to rescue my happy ass from a nasty crash just as much as I’m sure they appreciated my lucky skills at getting out of a dangerous situation. The real kicker of course, was that unless they noticed me at the last rest stop and happened to be at least a little familiar with MS, they probably didn’t have a clue that I suffered from it. Sometimes, when I’m on the bike, even I don’t notice the MS so much.”

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Last week I attended my third funeral in the last year or so, all at the same church. Each was a bit different in nature yet they all yielded the same clarity and reflection. Whether it was a wonderful mother of three who lost her heroic battle with cancer, a young man who was taken far too early after a fairly routine chest cold turned fatal, or an accomplished, proud grandfather who never met a stranger who was gone in a blink of an eye after a freak blood clot incident, these stories remind us (at least me) that we all have numerous opportunities and blessings to focus on. I wanted to share some of these thoughts because I found it to be a nice way to (re)focus on the true spirit and nature of the holiday season.

  1. Appreciate the “small” things – Sure, we’ve all heard this time and time again. Many times it is realized after a terrible disaster, personal scare, or life-changing event. It is in these moments that we are stripped away of caring about the day-to-day rat race and have clarity on exactly what’s most important. Be it family, friends, physical health, or mental well being, I encourage you to take a few minutes to identify your core list. Doing so will shed some light on where your focus is – and where it likely should be.
  2. Value your time – I, for one, need to heed this advice as much as the next person. I’m a busy guy between my various commitments and many times give the most attention to the squeakiest wheel or most out of control fire. Regardless, it’s what we do with our time here on this Earth that defines us. So (note to self), stop wishing you had more time and redefine what you do with those 1,440 minutes in every day.
  3. Do something today – One of the many things I learned from reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch is that wishing you had done something in your life or complaining about the reasons why you did not or cannot accomplish something is lame (paraphrased). One of the funerals I attended was for a man that retired after a 25 year career as a partner in an insurance adjusting agency, who immediately went on to purchase a couple of beauty supply stores. To my knowledge he didn’t know the first thing about owning a retail business like this. He did this for several reasons, most importantly to have flexibility to not only provide for but to spend spend time with his growing family. And he would be the first to tell you that if he can do it, so can you. This isn’t about starting a business, but rather to encourage you to take up that hobby, train for that event, change careers, get more involved in that charity or church you love so much. No matter what it is, just do it… today!
  4. Get your priorities in order – Now, the above suggestions are all for naught if you lack clarity as to some order of importance. Take note as you work to identify those items in #1 that stand out as the points of focus in your life. Those need to be what you prioritize at the top of the list and should your list be greater than your waking hours, something has to give. This exercise of sorting and evaluating should provide some amazing and hopefully life-adjusting clarity from which you and those around you will benefit.

More than likely you’ve had a brush with something that gave you a wake up call of some kind. I can easily point to mine and it has truly rattled my cage. I’ll give you a hint…the title of my blog captures the raw emotion and the story can be found here. Let me be one more person to tell you that your life can change in the blink of an eye. I pray that it doesn’t take a catastrophic event to rattle your cage.

Sure there’s a 1000 books and websites dedicated to helping you find these answers, but in the end the common denominator is YOU. You have to sort through your life and decide whether your interested in changing and investing the time it will take to get there. Regardless of the outcome, I hope you find some piece of clarity and the happiness that generally accompanies a purpose filled life.

Full Disclosure: In my day job, I am a Strategist at a marketing agency here in Dallas. My current client is a pharmaceutical company that is undergoing R&D for a new MS treatment. It’s exciting for me personally due to my growing passion to better the lives of those with MS.

As part of my work, I’ve been monitoring marketing research with a variety of MS patients from around the country. I’m currently three cities into a four city tour and have learned more than I ever thought I could about the daily lives of MS patients. Regardless of gender, age, life stage, or even progression of their MS they surprisingly have similar goals, struggles, and visions of hope.

While their struggles and hurdles are not new to me, it was insightful to see and hear these similarities given that I’ve experienced them with the MS patients in my personal life.

What’s encouraging is that beyond my clients efforts, there’s hope on the horizon. From new symptom-specific drugs, breakthrough devices, growing research funding, to a groundswell of supporters (like you) donating and participating in awareness & fund raising events like Bike MS, Walk MS, and many more.

Below are a few links I gathered from patients sharing where they go for research, encouragement, and general information online:

1.  National MS Society: Great organization with incredible resources and information on everything from how to get involved to living with MS.

2.  Myelin Repair Foundation: Exciting work and research driving towards the cure and/or reversal of MS.

3.  Shift.ms: An edgy, cool site geared at younger MS patients who want more interactive (video, social media, etc) and a voice similar to theirs, not the typical 40-50 something crowd.

4.  Active MS’ers: is designed to help, motivate, and inspire those with multiple sclerosis to stay as active as possible—physically, intellectually, and socially—regardless of physical limitations.

5.  MS News Today: Comprehensive and great way to stay plugged into all the news and happenings in MS research, funding, etc.

6.  MSunderstood: “the website on MS that doesn’t suck.”

7.  29 Gifts author Cami Walker: amazing book by an inspiring author. My wife described it like the Girlfriends Guide to MS. You understand this if you’ve read the Girlfriends Guides (to pregnancy, toddlers, etc).

8. Brain Cheese Blog: funny blog written by a MS patient. His description… “A forum of musings and adventures while traveling down the road with Multiple Sclerosis.”

9.  Last but definitely not least… Trevis Gleason’s blog: His name came up numerous times as a funny, helpful personality that others found interesting and engaging.

Enjoy,
Matt

Top Fundraiser

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