For Charlotte Ward, an agrologist in Saskatchewan, summer is her busy season. Her family resides on a farm near Springside, centrally located near Yorkton and the Manitoba border, where she and her husband alongside her parents raise cattle for beef production, along with their three kids. With the kids home for the summer, she’s working from home and in the process of haying (harvesting hay for the winter to feed the cattle). But in the quieter moments, you may see her pedaling along the gravel roads on her beloved bike.
Despite residing in Saskatchewan, Charlotte is located closer to the epic Riding Mountain MS Bike in Manitoba and has enjoyed an annual road trip to participate in her ride. Traditionally, the event happens in September, which is ideal timing for her. But despite that she’s participating in MS Bike again this year because for her, it’s personal.
“I knew it’d be easy just to take a break for a year, but somehow, it didn’t feel quite right. I have seen first-hand how MS impacts the lives of those who are diagnosed, as well as their loved ones.”
“I have also seen how available treatment options do not always work for everyone – in fact, after 16 months on my first disease modifying therapy (DMT), the progression of my MS did not slow down. If I wasn’t given a second treatment option two years ago, I am not sure what my disability level would be at today. With the exception of fatigue and a loss of words sometimes, most days, I wouldn’t know that I have MS – a drastic change from how I felt three years ago. I credit this to the MS Clinic in Saskatoon and the MS Society, who support the clinic and those affected by MS through research funding and advocating for better treatment options and support systems.”
In the earlier stages of Charlotte’s diagnosis, she experienced symptoms such as optic neuritis, double vision, fatigue, and numbness in her legs and feet. While she knew about MS Bike and had considered participating, it wasn’t until she switched to a different disease modifying therapy (DMT) in 2018 that she felt well enough to sign up for the Riding Mountain MS Bike event.
“At the end of the first day of Bike weekend, I cried as I cycled to the finish line – after everything that happened two years prior, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it up the hill with my MS. That first year, I really rode for myself – I needed to prove to myself that MS was not going to limit me and run my life.”
This year, Charlotte knew she was going to have to get creative.
“My solution was to set a goal of 150 km as that’s my biking distance for MS Bike. My plan was to do several shorter rides on the gravel roads around our farm and to log the kilometres on Facebook. After every ride, I posted the kilometres and tried to include a highlight from my ride. Some days it was the screenshot of my ride route; on other days, it was something that caught my eye (fields, hills I climbed, prairie flowers, or even skunks along the road!). I also posted pictures of my family joining me for a short ride. Our kids are 5, 7, and 10, so it’s a great way to get them involved in MS Bike, even if they don’t fully understand the significance yet. I think the event really resonates with family and friends. It’s not just me and my family impacted by MS, but other families too.”
While biking gives her an outlet for stress reduction and serves as a great way to stay active, ultimately family continues to power Charlotte’s dedication to MS Bike.
“I ride for my family. My sister was diagnosed with MS last year and I want to help find treatment options to support her. I also ride for my kids. Knowing that there is a family history of MS, if one of our kids, nieces, or nephew was ever diagnosed with MS (although I hope it never happens), I want to know that I am helping find better treatment options and hopefully, a cure. I don’t want our kids to have to go through the uncertainty and unknowns that come with this crazy disease. I am a fighter by nature, so MS is not going to win the battle!”
If Charlotte’s grit and perseverance has inspired you to contribute to the fight against MS for her, her sister, and the thousands of other Canadians impacted by the disease, donate today. Your investment will make twice the impact with the commitment of corporate sponsors who will match donations up to $200,000 until midnight.