Karla Zielke - 2007

Karla Zielke

I’m a lifelong athlete, and the MS 150 was always on my radar as a terrific challenge and a pretty good charity. I finally pulled the trigger on registering in October of 2007, never imagining that three short months later I would be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Two things crystallized for me immediately – I was definitely still going to ride and I was going to raise as much money as I could for the MS Society. I’m really proud that not only did I ride all 162.5 miles, I also raised $8,265 that first year.

When I was diagnosed, I was devastated. I had a very limited knowledge of MS. My previous volunteer experiences included people living with MS who were pretty far along with the progression of the disease. Most hadn’t had the benefit of early-intervention disease-modifying drugs, so I only saw the worst possible cases. That was my picture of MS, and suddenly, that was my worst fear about my own diagnosis.

I was extraordinarily fortunate to get into a cutting-edge treatment trial immediately after my diagnosis. I committed to strict oversight and protocol rules in exchange for a terrific educational resource, a rapid-response clinic, and a super team of people to help me. Outside of my once-a-year infusion, I have not missed a single day due to an MS symptom.

MS is a crazy and unpredictable disease, and I decided I couldn't sit still waiting for MS to show its face again in my life.  My inner warrior realized that if I started a tally of good days and bad days, most likely I’d kick MS’s butt more days than it would kick mine.  I’ve since stuck with that approach and challenged my limits rather than limiting my challenges.

I have MS symptoms but they are not visible and are hard for people to understand. My two primary challenges are fatigue and cognitive deficits. Daily I struggle with short-term memory and the inability to focus. Between medications, productivity strategies and brain games I am able to stay employed. Athletes describe “hitting the wall” or bonking. That is what MS fatigue is like. My body only has so much energy every day and when I’m out – I’m out. My activity choices revolve around prioritizing the energy output.

Training for the MS 150 significantly affects my energy supply and restricts my activities but I ride my bike to Austin for several reasons. 1) I am lucky, I can ride. 2) It energizes me to be one of thousands raising millions of dollars. Riders are literally changing my life and the course of my disease with the money they raise. 3) It’s a great event and lots of fun, but the impact it makes on people like me is huge!

Karla's fundraising page for BP MS150 2011: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/KZielke2011