SAN ANTONIO - This year marks 30 years of Bike MS here in South Texas, a bike ride that starts in San Antonio and goes to New Braunfels. The ride raises more than $24 million annually for the National Multiple Sclerosis society.
Over 1,300 cyclists registered to bike up to 160 miles over two days this weekend.
Johnny Cox and Marissa Castro were both diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and are taking part in the event.
"I would describe MS as being a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system in the body, specifically the brain and the spinal cord," Castro said.
Cox had known about the disease for more than a decade and started participating in Bike MS 15 years ago to support his sister, but he was diagnosed with the disease just five years ago.
Castro says she wasn't as aware of the disease or the event and her symptoms became overwhelming.
"Balance issues, fatigue, numbness, tingling in my body, speech issues. Heat sensitivity was probably the worst one," Castro said. "I went for a brain MRI, and that came back resulting in lesions, white spots on the brain."
MS can be a terrifying and life-changing diagnosis.
"My parents cried, and I had to tell them: "No, no crying. We're gonna figure this out and move forward. I'm gonna figure this out, and I'm gonna move forward,"" Castro said.
Bike MS helps raise money for research. It helps people who have the disease, and it helps raise awareness.
"Yes, I can sit here, I can talk to you. You know, walking back to my car, you know, might be a little of a struggle. It's how the brain takes it all in and how the brain affects the rest of the body," Castro said.
Dozens of riders, like Castro and Cox, live with MS, and for some of them, that means riding a regular bicycle wouldn't be safe. But now, because of a generous and anonymous donation, they have trikes, also known as recumbent bikes.
"I came home from work one day and there was a trike with Santa Claus out in the parking lot where I live, and I was gifted a secret Santa trike," Cox said.
For this year's Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River 2019, Cox and Castro are on Team Wingmen.
"57 cyclists with MS are proving to themselves that they can do this. And there's no end goal. They are on a personal journey," Castro said.
"It gives me peace of mind. It really does. On a day when I know that I can get out and ride, you know, I call it pedal therapy. It's mind-freeing," Castro said.
Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River 2019 starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and is a two-day event. It ends Sunday at the Comal County fairgrounds.
If you're interested in donating, click here.
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