The official ambassadors for the 2017 MSWA Ocean Ride are Pete Moltoni & Leigh Harris - two people who are currently living with multiple sclerosis. Their stories are below so that you can learn a bit more about their lives and the reason they support the MSWA Ocean Ride.
Pete Moltoni's Story
Pete Moltoni was your average 21-year-old living a busy work and social life when he first started feeling a tingling in his right arm. Thinking it was just a pinched nerve he wasn’t worried until the numbness and tingling moved down his entire right side and his vision started to blur. After an MRI scan, lumbar puncture and a few more tests, Pete was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
“When I was first diagnosed in 2011, I had never heard of MS before, it was very confronting”, Pete said. “The Doctor armed me with a few pamphlets that only provided the facts and history of multiple sclerosis so you can imagine the shock I was in”.
Now six years on, Pete’s 27, and hasn’t had a relapse to date. The symptoms that affect him the most are numbness and pain in his right arm and leg, but he never lets it affect the way he lives or his plans for the future.
He said “I’m so grateful for the support MSWA has provided. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve not needed any help in my day to day life, but I’ve been to their facilities and seen how many people they look after. Just knowing I have someone there to answer my questions and work through my problems is reassuring and keeps me positive. I know that if I need them more in the future, they will be there for me”.
Living a healthy and active lifestyle is important to Pete, so getting involved with the MSWA Ocean Ride was a natural fit and a way to support the cause. The first ride was a couple of months after his diagnosis, so his family jumped onboard and got involved in the event creating the ‘For Pete’s Sake’ team.
This will be their 7th year doing the ride and the team has grown to around 20 riders, thanks to his extended family who participate and also put in a lot of effort fundraising. Altogether they have raised over $54,000 for MSWA since their first Ocean Ride in 2012.
Pete’s fundraising goal is $10,000 for 2017 and he is aiming to ride 50km. He said, “It’s always a well organised and a fun day. Any an excuse to wear lycra and ride with my friends I’ll take”.
Leigh Harris' Story
Leigh Harris has been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 2013. Having some experience with the condition through an uncle and a work colleague, she knew the condition was different for everyone. Her first symptoms were constant fatigue, which lasted over a year, followed by a numbing of her body, moving from her toes to head.
"I think I somehow knew that I had MS. In a way, the diagnosis was a relief as it gave me an explanation of the way I was feeling," Leigh said. The neurologist told her to go home and live a normal life. This advice has motivated her to fight off depression and feeling of distress. It was something to be dealt with and controlled.
Before life with MS, Leigh enjoyed walking the dog, taking out the kayaks on the river and going camping. It's been a journey of discovery; learning new ways of doing these activities, discovering how loving and supportive her husband Bevan could be and that life does not stop when you have MS.
Adjusting to the fatigue has been one of the biggest hurdles for Leigh; sometimes she feels fine and then other times she has no energy at all. "I refer to this as my batteries running out." Leigh said. Her other issues are the inability to regulate her body temperature and managing stress.
Connecting with MSWA was not only important for Leigh, it was also helpful for her husband. Bevan attended the Newly Diagnosed seminars to learn more about MS and meet others in his position. Leigh finds the physiotherapy sessions and personalised exercises very helpful for her body and it means that she can still get outdoors and do the things she loves.
Leigh said, "We've even bought a tandem bike because we wanted to ride again and exercise is good for everyone, including people with MS." This is Leigh and Bevan's third MSWA Ocean Ride and this year they're challenging themselves to the 30km Ride. Signing up for the Ride makes them get on the bike and exercise because they have a goal to achieve.
Participating in the MSWA Ocean Ride has two benefits for Leigh and her husband; it gets them exercising in a way that they enjoy and can spend time together, and it raises money for MSWA. "That makes participating in the Ocean Ride a win-win situation. You can't get better than that!" Leigh said.