Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What's the worst that can happen?

According to www.brainyquote, Plato said ‘Death is not the worst that can happen to man.’ I don’t have a fear of death. This is not to do with any religion or belief in afterlife. Dying is not the worst that can happen. Dying painfully in a long drawn out suffering way probably is.

I’ve watched both my parents die. I hated seeing them in pain. I hated that conversation with a nurse/doctor who tells you there is nothing else they can/will do. I don’t want to put anyone in that position for me or be the one who has reached the end but can’t just stop. Who doesn’t have the choice.

Not too long after dx with RRMS I was offered the opportunity to go onto Disease Modifying Drug treatment. Like many MSers, I went to the MS Decisions site to help choose which DMD I wanted to go on.  I am not a gambler but taking any drug is a bit of a gamble because it is hard to know which of the possible side effects you might experience. I wanted to be proactive. I wanted (and still do) to take something to extend the time until my next relapse and the impacts of one when it came.  But I quickly decided I couldn’t take a drug with a potential side effect of fatal brain disease like PML (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy). So Natalizumab (Tysabri) was not for me.

So I won’t take a drug that might, just might, cause serious brain infection which usually causes death or severe disability but I will consider and do crazy things like falling out of aeroplane, walking down the side of a hospital, flying a glider, riding a bicycle.

You might not think riding a bicycle is very risky. I know it can be. According to RoSPA, ‘Every year in this country around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents, including around 3,000 who are killed or seriously injured.’ As a car driver, I know cyclists can appear invisible and unpredictable to motorists. I grew up cycling. Until three years ago, I used to cycle pretty much every day. I owned two bikes – a ladies mountain bike and a folder. Both were Giants – it’s a respected brand of cycle.

But after relapse/DX in 2009 I couldn’t ride them any more. I can cycle. My legs go round. But, as I’ve previously blogged, I live at the top of a hill and whichever direction I would cycle in I would end up having to go up hill at some point. And that’s if I could get on the bike to start with.

My mountain bike didn’t have a horizontal cross bar like a man’s bike but the angled bar was sufficiently high for me to have problems getting on and off. The bikes sat in my rented garage, unused, unloved. It takes a lot to admit to yourself that it is time to get rid of something you once held dear.

The physio at the Disabled Living gym I go to once a week knows my love of cycling. I use the exercise bike at the gym – 10 minutes each time unless I’m having a bad day when I might only do four or five minutes, or none. She recommended Wheels for All to me. I went to one of their local sessions. Tried out a tandem, a hand cycle and a trike. I loved it. In fact I loved it so much I went out and bought my electric bike.

Last weekend I cycled to Blenheim Palace for Bike Blenheim. It’s about 11 miles there. On Saturday, according to the bike computer I bought to make sure I didn’t break the 15mph speed limit that applies to electric bikes (or at least didn’t break it too often), I rode 23 miles. TWENTY-THREE MILES! Of course, I wasn’t pedalling for all of that – thank goodness for the throttle which allows me to ride without anything more than a twist of a handle. I spent most of my time at the Cycling Projects/Wheels for All stand encouraging people to have a go on their adapted cycles. On the way home from Blenheim, I stopped off at the cinema in town so that I could watch a film (sit down in a cushioned seat) for a couple of hours.

I did the same the following day. I had thought of driving there but the lure of the cycle and a sunny day was too much for me to resist. I told the volunteers that I would like to be a volunteer for future Wheels for All events. I think the next training day isn’t until February but I hope to do it.

Again, on the way home, I stopped at the cinema for a sit down. Whilst cycling and then locking up my bike, I thought how much easier it used to be when I had a moped. Helmet on, key in the ignition and off you go. No pedalling. I wonder what the statistics are for death/serious injury following an accident as a moped rider. What’s the worst that can happen?

PS I’m probably not going to buy a moped

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