The BP MS 150 is a two-day fundraising bike ride organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The ride is the largest event of its kind in North America, with 13,000 cyclists, 3,500 volunteers, and countless spectators along the route and at the finish line in Austin.
Multiple sclerosis can be a debilitating disease but there are a lot of new reasons to ride this weekend, including research and funding for new medications, such as the ones offering hope to one Cypress school counselor.
“Today, I'm talking to you just fine. Tomorrow, I could be in the hospital,” Carol Ruiz said, of how quickly and viciously MS symptoms can occur.
She was diagnosed when she was 32 years old.
“I used to run and walk a lot, just for exercise. I can't do that anymore,” she said. “I've now finally succumbed to using the scooter at the grocery store, which took me awhile to be able to do ... but now I realize it's the way for me to be able to get around and not be so exhausted at the end of the trip.”
It's been a swift change of life in two years. She endures several injections a week, hospital visits and now infusion therapy.
“So to try and prevent more from occurring, that's how we moved from the Copaxone on to the more aggressive drug,” Ruiz said.
Dr. Philip Blum, a neurologist with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, said the infusion of Rituximab that Carol gets is similar to Ocrevus, which was just approved by the Food and Drug Administration last month.
“The way it works is to deplete a very specific kind of cell that is one tiny part of the immune system, leaving the rest of the immune system intact,” Dr. Blum said.
The problem is, these drugs that are so promising can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for patients such as Carol, who says she already has brain damage from the disease.
While she struggles with the choice between quality of life or bankruptcy, her friends started a GoFundMe to raise money for her:
Her dream is to raise enough money to enter a clinical trial that she feels could help treat her form of the disease.
“Hopefully, be able to go get treatment before I have permanent damage, before it's irreversible. So it's definitely a race against time,” Ruiz said.
She's racing the clock to preserve life, and the MS 150 races for research to save her and everyone like her.