MONMOUTH — Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. Its symptoms can be debilitating. The disease, which affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the National MS Society, can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, paralysis and blindness.
Beaverton resident Christopher Ramsey, who was recognized during Bike MS at Western Oregon University on Saturday with the “limitless award,” is out to prove that MS doesn’t have to keep you down.
“You need to raise the bar,” Ramsey said. “I need to keep that bar as high as it can be. If MS is going to take my endurance, take my strength, take, take, take, what can I do to make sure that no matter how much it takes, there’s still room for that bar to drop.”
Ramsey was born to move.
He ran his first mile at age 2, alongside his father in a local fun run. Ramsey wouldn’t be content with that.
Prior to 2008, Ramsey had competed in multiple Ironman triathlons — a race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, and competed six times in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
“I started racing triathlons when I got into college,” Ramsey said. “I found a sport that I was really good at.”
His life began to change in 2008.
“Within a couple weeks, I would try for a half an hour ride on my bike trainer, and it would feel like I had just done an Ironman,” Ramsey said.
It wouldn’t be long before he was diagnosed.
Ramsey had MS.
Instead of letting the disease define him, Ramsey decided to take the fight to the disease.
“This is my future,” Ramsey said. “You can still be angry about it, but you can either choose to do something about it or let it do something to you.”
Ramsey qualified for three more Ironman World Championships in 2009, 2011 and 2013 before retiring from triathlons in 2014. But he wasn’t ready to sit on the sidelines and began to focus exclusively on cycling.
“Cycling is an escape to some extent, a stress relief,” Ramsey said. “It’s also sort of my vendetta against my MS.”
Most recently, he competed in the Race Across the West, a 930-mile bike ride from California to Colorado, in June.
He was the first cyclist with MS to attempt to complete the ride solo.
“It was bar none, the hardest single event I’ve ever done in my life,” Ramsey said. “Riders have less than four days to officially finish. After two days and eight hours of racing, I had covered 603 miles. Between the sleep deprivation and the heat, possibly MS’s biggest nemesis, I had enough. My body, surprisingly, had held up well, but I underestimated the mental stress of the event and ultimately little issues kept stressing me more and more. Like death by 1,000 cuts. But many of these small things are quite fixable.”
Ramsey said he will be back on the road in 2018 for the Race Across the West.
All the while, he has furthered his cause to raise money for MS research and awareness — with fundraising totaling more than $32,000 so far this year.
His participation in Bike MS is another way to encourage others battling MS that there is hope for the future.
“As a rider who has MS, I am always incredibly honored and overwhelmed by those around me actually doing something to help improve the lives of those of us with MS,” Ramsey said. “I wish I could find the words to describe my thankfulness. Truly, there is still goodness in the world.”
That hasn’t stopped him so far — and he hopes his story can help people be inspired that they can make a change in their lives.
“I fully intend to still be riding my bike in 50 years,” Ramsey said.