Joel Reichenberger: Living with MS

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— Lane Malone is the prototypical Steamboater. She explained that in her free time, she likes "mountain biking, telemark skiing, hiking, snowshoeing and trail running."

That's part of what's made her January multiple sclerosis diagnosis so difficult.

She said that in many ways, she was lucky with how the news was delivered. Her brother had been diagnosed nearly five years prior, and Malone already had participated in several fundraising events meant to benefit MS research. She had read up and become familiar with the disease, its limitations and possibilities.

"It was a devil I knew," she said. When her brother was diagnosed, it took doctors six months to pin down enough symptoms to actually label the disease. Malone, thanks to some quality treatment at the Yampa Valley Medical Center, was diagnosed quickly and able to avoid a lengthy and aggravating chase for answers.

That doesn't mean the process has been easy, though. Quite the opposite.

"This is a highly unpredictable disease," she explained. "I may be in the same shape I'm in now in 20 years, or I may be in a wheelchair next month.

"Symptoms can come and go. Medication can help, but in a notably large percentage of people, when they occur, they don't go away, and that's your new reality."

Since that January conversation with her doctor, Malone has been testing to see what exactly her new reality is. Treatments left her weak, and she had to adjust her telemark techinque.

She had to slow down for a rest after she began to lose coordination in her limbs during an April snowshoeing run.

She's unsure of picking trail running back up, and, when "acting as the caboose for the women's novice division" of local Town Challenge races, she has to be content with going slow and stopping frequently to rest.

"It's mildly disappointing to be participating in those events, not competing in them," she said.

She's been more conscious of living in the present and enjoying every day with her husband, Michael, and her 4-year-old son Sal.

It all came to a head at a bike ride in June. The two-day Colorado Bike MS Ride took more than 3,000 riders 150 miles along the Front Range, from Denver to Fort Collins.

Malone helped her team raise more than $10,000 for MS research. She said she did the ride for her brother, but, of course, it was an entirely different experience than any of the other MS fundraisers she'd participated in.

Hot weather slowed her down, and the miles added up. But just as she does in Town Challenge races, she finished with a smile. She explained the ride was a part of dealing with the disease that affects not only her, but also many others who suffer silently in Routt County.

And it was a way for her to continue testing, finding out that in her new reality, long bike rides still are a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

"I used to always enjoy living in Steamboat," she said. "Now, I treasure it. I still feel so lucky I can do these things that are active."

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