This edition of our Member Spotlight features Charity Miles member Jeff Olsen! A former police officer and BMX rider, Jeff was recently diagnosed with MS. I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff about life with Multiple Sclerosis, Bike MS, and maintaining a positive mindset despite trying circumstances. What an inspiration!
Born in Clark, NJ, Jeff moved to Sarasota, Florida as a teenager and has remained ever since. He worked as a police officer for a number of years in his 20s before transitioning to a 9-5 office job. In recent years he began experiencing issues with his legs, along with increased difficulty maintaining balance. Over the course of 3 year period of going to various doctors, he knew something wasn’t right. “My body was telling me don’t even try to run because you can’t run. It’s like my brain telling my feet to move and they just didn’t”.
Jeff, unfortunately, was recently diagnosed with MS. “We pretty much knew it was coming so it wasn’t a huge shocker”. Soon after he began treatment in the form of an oral pill and he will start blood transfusions in the next month or so.
Despite his deteriorating health, Jeff finds inspiration in various facets of life. “I married the love of my life a week after my diagnosis. I want to be the best husband possible and eventually the best father possible and not just the best with MS. It keeps me going every day. I know I need to build muscle and lose weight so I can physically keep up with being a husband and father. (Sidenote: Hanging Christmas lights on a 20’ ladder with MS is a bit sketchy, I think next year I will shop that job out)”. He has maintained a great sense of humor along the way.
Jeff also draws inspiration from his close friend Michelle. “My dear friend Michelle was diagnosed with MS about 14 years ago and was in the clinical trials for some of today\'s popular MS medication. Unfortunately, she received the placebo and lost her ability to walk. The drug trial she was a part of will stop the progression of my MS. I am thankful every day and refuse to waste the gift she has given me.”
Determined to use his remaining mobility to make a difference, Jeff will be participating in Bike MS. He will be riding from Miami to Key Largo, followed by a ride in Charlotte later in the year. He will be fundraising for Bike MS all along the way. “What mobility I have is a gift! The second part of my positive attitude comes from my fundraising for MS. Within the first 3 hours of signing up for the Miami to Key Largo ride for MS, I reached my $350 donation minimum. By day three, I passed my original goal of $500. Two weeks into it, I am passed $3,000!”
Cycling with MS does not come without its difficulties. “I am not an athlete. With MS, the fatigue is so great at times it is hard to get the energy to ride and train but, I am 100% driven by the love people have shown me by supporting my journey.”
Although he does not consider himself an athlete, Jeff’s ties to bikes run deep. “I have had a strong tie to bikes & cycling my entire life. As a kid, I rode my bike everywhere, built jumps and trails, and raced BMX every week. My poor parents lugged me and my bike all over!”
Jeff’s involvement with Charity Miles is fairly recent as he has been using the app since discovering it in October of this year. “I heard about Charity Miles via an Instagram post from Bike MS and started using the app on the following training ride. I have used it just about every ride since.” Charity Miles and Bike MS support each other “so it seemed like a natural fit. To raise money just by opening an app before a ride is a no-brainer.” He even purchased a pair of Aftershokz headphones!
“I train alone or with my friend and neighbor Andy who is a nurse and much younger and more in shape than I am. We ride 4-6 times a week a minimum of 12 fast miles and up to 60 steady pace miles. We are working up to the 75-100 mile range. I try to keep the RPMs over 70 and the pace around 15+ mph.”
“The love I feel from my family, friends, neighbors, church, and coworkers fuels me every day! What mobility I have left is a gift!”
You are an incredible inspiration, Jeff. Keep up the great work and good luck with your training! We at Charity Miles wish you nothing but good health in the coming year!
For more information about Bike MS, you can click here: Bike MS.
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