North Bend mom rides a bike to fight MS

Suzanne Perkins, North Bend mom, takes part in the Bike MS ride this weekend, starting from Mount Vernon.  - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
Suzanne Perkins, North Bend mom, takes part in the Bike MS ride this weekend, starting from Mount Vernon.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Suzanne Perkins laughs and admits she’s not exactly ready for her fifth Bike MS ride.

When the North Bend mom hits the pedals this Saturday and Sunday, taking part in the bicycle trek and fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, she doesn’t plan to ride far.

But for Perkins, just being able to ride a bicycle is a small, real victory.

Perkins had big plans to train for the ride. But between the summer heat—MS makes it hard for the body to conduct the signals to cool off—and back pain, her plans went awry.

So, she’ll be doing just the first leg of both days.

“I’m hoping, muscle memory and sheer willpower!” Perkins says—that’s what will get her through.

Why she rides

She is doing the ride to motivate others, fundraise for the National MS Society, and help people learn about what MS is.

Like many autoimmune disorders, MS is an invisible disease.

“You look at me, and you don’t think there’s anything wrong,” Perkins said. “But you don’t see that I have stabbing pains in my legs, which I’m taking lots of medicine for. Or that my vision isn’t as good in my left eye as it used to be, because it affects the optic nerves.

“Everybody is dealing with something,” she said. For her, MS is that thing. “There’s no known cause and no known cure. There’s anecdotal evidence of dieting helping. Exercise helps, but it’s also hard to exercise.” So, Perkins plans to keep biking as long as she can.

“There’s a huge number of folks in the Valley with MS,” Perkins said. The society, she said, told her that 87 Valley residents have contacted them for information or support. Perkins says more people may be out there, invisible.

“You know that ‘six degrees of separation’ thing with Kevin Bacon? I always say MS is the new Kevin Bacon. Everybody knows somebody who has it.”

Perkins has known that she has MS for eight years, but has probably been dealing with symptoms since at least 2001.

Multiple sclerosis adds an extra challenge as Perkins, a stay-at-home mom, raises her son, Harrison.

“I’ve noticed limitations,” she said. Perkins gets tired more easily. Her strength isn’t what it used to be. “But I’m very mobile compared to most people.”

A former triathlon runner, Perkins was drawn to Bike MS in 2010. That year, as team captain of “Moms with MS,” she was challenged, balancing weekend transfusions with finding helpers to organize rides.

This year, she was invited to ride with Rick Steves’ Eurostars, connected with the “Rick Steves’ Europe program.

She has set a personal fundraising goal of $3,000.

“The nice thing about being on Rick’s team is he matches 50 cents to every dollar,” said Perkins. “I’m already above, and with his match, I’ll be well over that.”

The 2014 Bike MS ride is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6 and 7, starting at the Skagit County Fairgrounds in Mount Vernon.

Bike MS includes 22, 59, 80 and 97-mile routes, and riders can choose one day or both. There is also an option to be a “virtual rider” for those who can’t ride but want to be a part.

“It’s a beautiful ride, really nice people,” Perkins said. “It’s like any event that you do for a certain cause—you get caught up in the ‘Go Us!’ aspect of it.”

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