Stephen Ray's first day of work as a watchkeeper for Motlow College was in the fall of 2007. It happened to be the day of the 'MS Ride to Jack and Back' event. Ray said, "Before that day I had never heard of the bicycling event and I really did not know what 'MS' was." He added, "Actually I was a little nervous about so many visitors on campus while I was supposed to be learning my new job." Two years later he would realize the irony of his first day and he would learn firsthand about MS (multiple sclerosis).
The next fall he and his fiancee, Rose, were planning their wedding. Stephen, who normally weighed in the 180 pound range, had been an athlete all of his life. Growing up in Manchester, he played football and baseball and had always managed to stay in shape. He began noticing his muscle tone was fading and he was losing weight. Feeling very tired, he attributed his physical changes to stress. He and Rose continued with their wedding plans. By the time they married in January of 2009, Stephen's weight had fallen to 119 pounds. He knew something was wrong.
After the wedding he was determined to figure out what was happening to his body and started going to different doctors. In July of that year a doctor in Murfreesboro gave Stephen the shocking diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. He was told the progression of the disease is different for all patients. Stephen soon found himself walking with the aid of a cane and was told he was wheelchair bound.
After numerous doctor visits, a debilitating prognosis and an array of medications, Stephen decided he could not take this diagnosis sitting down. He began to fight back. He made extreme adjustments to his diet and exercise and began a training regimen that involved bicycling; a huge undertaking for someone that had to walk with a cane. He strapped his cane to the bike and in the beginning didn't have the energy and muscle tone to make it up and down his driveway.
Every day he tried to go a little further. He built up to half the distance of a football field, then the whole field. Eventually he was measuring his progress in miles. Stephen's hard work and determination were beginning to pay off and his body was obviously getting stronger. He began speaking at MS Society functions and started entering cycling events.
Today, even though his doctor says he is in remission from the disease, he lives with the pain. Because of damage to his nervous system, he measures at least a four (on a scale of ten) daily on the pain scale. Stephen's training involves stretching, yoga and cycling and he is working with three different coaches.
Stephen participates in a cycling event about once a month. He explained, "There are other cyclists, diagnosed with MS, who ride in specific heats with special bikes. The MS Society says I am only the fifth person to ride on bike, the full length of a race."
He said with a smile, "I recently participated in the '2011 MS Ride to Jack and Back' and for me, it was like coming full circle. It was here on the Motlow campus that I first heard of the event and with everything that has happened since then, I was thrilled to finish third out of the 1,000 riders."
Stephen summed up his determination to fight MS, "No one knows what the future has in store for us. I train five hours a day, try to keep a smile on my face and as long as I can ride, I'm going to ride."
NMSS MID SOUTH CHAPTER PRESENTS.....
Stephen Ray: I always seem to leave people wondering how, how that when you are given no hope but you turn a tragedy to triumph, how that when your told to build a wheelchair ramp, you dont listen. In 2009 at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with MS, walking with a cane and at 118 lbs I started to fight back. I jumped on an old bike, strapped my cane to the side and took off, I havnt stopped since, I ride every single day with the mentality that tomorrow I may not be as lucky. As of November 1st, 2011 I have rode 4200 miles...in 2011 alone, I no longer walk with a cane and I weigh a healthy 140 lbs. My name is Stephen Ray, husband, cyclist, and I am the face of MS.