NAS Whidbey mom and teammates cycle to stop MS
August 31, 2010 · Updated 2:28 PM
By PAM MCGAFFIN
Special to the News-Times
Sharon Dodge was 10 years old when she first heard the words “multiple sclerosis.”
They came from her father, an American Airlines pilot who died from complications of the disease just before his 49th birthday. Eight years later, Sharon herself was diagnosed with MS, but her self-pity was short-lived.
“I had already lived through this disease once and I knew better than anyone that a negative attitude was a waste of time,” she said.
Now the Oak Harbor wife of a naval aviator and a mother of three, Dodge has not only learned to live with her MS, she has turned into a passionate fundraiser and advocate.
This summer she has been busy training and raising money for her fourth Bike MS Ride Sept. 11 and 12 in Mount Vernon. The annual fundraiser – presented by Point B and hosted by the National MS Society, Greater Northwest Chapter – is expected to draw more than 2,000 cyclists and raise $1.65 million for MS research and programs.
Dodge’s Team Navy has been a top fundraising team both here and on the East Coast, collecting more than $100,000 for the cause. In addition to Dodge and Jim Jaeger of Oak Harbor, who both have MS, the team includes Sharon’s husband, Commanding Officer CDR Bill Dodge, and other personnel from the Navy Information Operations Command at NAS Whidbey.
“Bike MS is important to me because I need to feel that sense of accomplishment, that I’m actually doing something about MS,” Dodge said. “As a second-generation MS patient, I also want to make sure this disease stops with me and that our children never have to know what it’s like to have MS inside their bodies.”
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that directly affects more than 10,000 people in Western and Central Washington and Alaska, and 400,000 nationwide.
It usually strikes people between the ages of 20 and 50 with varied and unpredictable symptoms, including fatigue, numbness, loss of balance, vision problems and paralysis. There is no cure for MS, but advances in treatments have helped people manage the disease.
Dodge sees herself as a living example of the strides that have been made thanks to research and the fundraising that supports it. She even participated in a John Hopkins study, funded by the National MS Society, that looked at nerve and myelin repair. Myelin is the fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s own defense system to attack and damage the myelin in the central nervous system, causing scar tissue or sclerosis.
Dodge says she feels relatively lucky. While she experiences bouts of fatigue, vertigo and a frequent electrical buzzing in her feet and legs, her symptoms haven’t stopped her from being physically active.
This summer, she’s been logging about 60 miles a week in preparation for Bike MS Ride, which offers cyclists a choice of routes ranging from 20 to 92 miles through Skagit, Whatcom and Island counties.
“I love this event because of the life-long friendships I’ve made, the people I’ve never met who thank me for riding, and that overwhelming joy at crossing the finish line,” Dodge said. “My father never got to see 50, but here I am at 44 still going strong.”
For more information on the Bike MS Ride, go to www.bikeMSnorthwest.org or call 1-800-344-4867. To support or learn more about Team Navy, visit www.teamnavy.org.
Look out for bicyclists
The Bike MS Ride participants will be using the following Island County roads on Saturday, Sept. 11:
Highway 20, Deception Pass Bridge, Deception Pass Road, Ault Field Road, Heller Road, W. Whidbey Avenue, NE Regatta Drive, W. Crescent Harbor Blvd., Taylor Road, Frostad Road, Dike Road, Jones Road, Imperial Lane, Hoffman Road, Sleeper Road, E. Henni Road, Monkey Hill Road, W. Ducken Road, Crosby Road, West Beach Road, Ft. Nugent Road, W. Swantown Road, Oak Harbor Boulevard, S. Heller Street.
(Pam McGaffin of Moore Ink. PR, writes articles about important health, family and community issues for non-profit organizations.)