We’re all aware of the devastating effects of heavy-hitting illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
A disease that seems to get a little less attention but can be just as devastating is multiple sclerosis, or MS. It’s also often misunderstood.
This morning, however, the disease made headlines as Sopranos star Jamie-Lynn Sigler announced that she has been battling MS for the past 15 years.
While most of us are aware of the painful and often debilitating disease, which slowly tackles the central nervous system, some are ignorant to all of the potential side effects – some of which are hidden to the eye.
Meaning, a person with MS doesn’t necessarily “look sick.”
This is highlighted in recent powerful campaign by Grey Australia, “This Bike Has MS.” Created to help raise awareness for the MS Melbourne Cycle taking place in March, it involves an actual bike that’s specifically designed to highlight all of the challenges faced by someone with the disease.
The bike mimics the symptoms of MS, making it extremely challenging to ride. The thing is, it doesn’t look difficult to ride to an outsider in the same way that symptoms of the disease may not be so easy to spot to the casual observer. The symptoms of MS can differ between people, and can vary in intensity over the course of a patient’s life.
Many MS patients put on a brave face and suffer in silence.
As explained by Angela Natividad of AdWeek, living with MS is like having small bodily annoyances all of the time and of magnified intensity. “Take all the tiny ticks that result when you’ve sat too long on your foot, had an off-season allergy attack, walked too long up a hill, or haven’t eaten in awhile. Combine them, magnify them by 10, and try living that way,” she writes in describing what life with MS is like.
Because a simple description isn’t enough, the MS bike is designed to emulate the ongoing struggle of someone living with the disease.
Headed by Paralympian Gold Medalist Carol Cooke and built by a team of neurologists, physiotherapists, bike mechanics, as well as MS patients, the MS bike is designed to exhaust riders as they consistently struggle to keep it straight.
Some of the features include a heavy front wheel that makes it difficult for the rider to move forward; an uncomfortable saddleback seat made for BMX racing; gears with broken teeth that hinder a rider’s control of the bike; dull brakes; a frame with an centre of balance that’s off; and thin handlebars that vibrate while you ride.
And yes, someone will actually ride the bike in the charity race.
You can find out more about MS here.