COLUMBIA — Kim Boyer ran her third marathon in September, but in the weeks following the race, she didn't feel like a winner. Nine months later, her doctor broke the news: She had multiple sclerosis.
Boyer is a 40-year-old tax accountant who battled her weight for years, shedding about 170 pounds to get down to 160 pounds. In December, an MRI revealed she had a lesion on her spine, but doctors couldn’t ultimately agree on a diagnosis. Through a follow-up MRI in June, the doctor found five more lesions on her spine.
Now that her symptoms have a diagnosis, she has to overcome the shock.
To support her fight against MS, 40 of her friends and co-workers have formed a team to pedal Bike MS in September in Boyer's honor. The same friends also cheered on her transformation as she ran off more than 80 pounds with the Ultramax Sports running team she joined in 2009.
The initial group was intended to have only 20 members, but 40 cyclists signed up to be one of "Boyer’s Biker Bitches," as they call themselves. More are expected to join. If everyone on the team so far raises the minimum $250 by race time, the team will have raised $10,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Some members have already surpassed the minimum.
Working together as a team makes handling hard tasks like running up "insufferable" hills and grueling bike rides easier, said Craig Lycke, one of Boyer's running partners.
Columbia's Bike MS
Bike MS, formerly known as MS 150, is a national event geared to raise money for MS research. Every state hosts a Bike MS event annually at different times of the year. Since it began more than 30 years ago, Bike MS has helped raise more than $1 billion nationally.
Each event typically lasts two days, giving cyclists enough time to ride as many as 100 miles each day. So far in 2013, cyclists have traveled more than five million miles.
On Sept. 7 and 8, cyclists in the Columbia area will start at the Central Missouri Events Center and loop through farmland to get back. For this ride, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s goal is to raise $2.3 million. Participants have raised a little more than $380,000 from the 202 teams signed up now. More teams are still able to join and raise money for MS research.
'Too much unknown'
Multiple sclerosis targets the central nervous system, attacking the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord. MS can cause paralysis and blindness in worst-case scenarios. Boyer experiences some vision problems in her right eye and, for a short while, had tingling in her hands and feet, which her doctor blamed on anxiety.
"Just a case of nerves," Lycke said.
Boyer’s biggest symptom, though, is the depression that settles over her at the prospect of tying her shoelaces before a run. That mindset — which she fights constantly — and her medication have marred her running routine.
“The fear is that there’s too much unknown,” Boyer said. “In five years, I might not be able to walk.”
Once she gets past the mental challenges, Boyer laces up and heads out before the sun rises to avoid the heat, which makes her vision worse. Still, she presses on.
Leaving pounds behind
Her drive to fitness started six years ago, when she was 34 and weighed about 330 pounds.
"I decided I was too fat," Boyer said. "If I gained any more weight, I’d explode."
So she started with light workouts by bicycling and walking to get into better shape. Boyer was able to lose between 70 and 80 pounds, but it wasn’t enough cardio for her taste.
That’s when she began to run.
In 2009, she joined the running team which met twice a week to run. The more she ran, the more she pushed herself, running harder than those who were more experienced. She left the pounds behind in a cloud of dust, ultimately losing between 160 and 170 pounds.
"This is the triumph of the human spirit," Lycke said. "Kim, you were victorious."
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.