Howard’s Team – Introducing MS Champion Melinda Thrasher

Howard’s Team is pleased to welcome Melinda Thrasher to the team as our newest MS Champion.

Melinda – Welcome to Howard’s Team!  Your story is an inspiration for all of us.  We are so pleased to have you on the team.

Here’s her MS Story told in her own words:

Hello, my name is Melinda Thrasher. I am an MS Champion, an MS Warrior and whether I wanted to be or not, an inspiration.

I rode in Bike MS for three years at the Bike MS: Deception Pass Classic in Washington before I got my own MS diagnosis.

A few months after riding in my third Bike MS, in November of 2016, I started feeling numbness spreading across my face. It started small, like a corner of my mouth. That was over a weekend at home but by Monday when I went to work, the numbness was starting to reach my neck and covered nearly half my face. When I let my work team know what was happening they insisted I immediately go to the hospital. Facial numbness can be signs of a stroke and they were very worried.

In the ER they kept me under watch in the waiting room until they were able to assess me and rule out a stroke. Next it was time for my first brain MRI. While I was waiting for my results, I pulled out a sketch book and did some drawing. A self-portrait of my numbness and pain.

The doctor stood there in the ER room with his crisp white sheet of paper and gave me my diagnosis. Multiple brain lesions with clear signs of multiple sclerosis. Facial paresthesia, the technical term for face numbness. He asked me if I’d ever heard of MS and I remember being proud to say I rode in Bike MS for 3 years and in fact did know about it.

I remember feeling at least slightly relieved because I was familiar with it and I knew that there was a whole MS community to support me. One I was already a part of.

My life changed that day, but it didn’t end. I moved from Seattle to Southern California to be near my family and I found a new Bike MS to be a part of.

So now, I ride with MS. I ride for a cure. I ride for support. I ride because I still can and for those who can’t.

Being a part of this ride has also found me in a place on the ride committee. It’s important for those riding with MS to have a voice in the ride. My role is to help create more accommodations for people riding with the challenges of MS. I am on the IRWMS (I ride with MS) subcommittee and we work to make the ride the best possible experience for people with MS. I’m also on the Rookie Rider subcommittee with the goal of getting new riders to be prepared, confident and having fun.

In October 2022, the day before the Bay to Bay Bike MS ride, I got the diagnosis that I now have Secondary Progressive MS. That ride was very emotional for me.

I was honored to be named the Most Inspirational rider for Bike MS Bay to Bay 2022. That has also led to me getting involved in the local community as an MS Ambassador and an MS Activist. Doing these things keeps me going and helps me stay positive. I had the honor of spending 2023 speaking for MS and even getting to be on the news in a spot about Lloyd’s Legacy team members riding with me last year.

So what am I doing about my MS?

Every 6 months I go through an IV treatment for about 6 hours in the infusion center at the hospital and get a dose of some generic version of Rituxan (Rituximab). It’s actually a leukemia treatment, used for advanced cases of MS. I have the displeasure of being allergic to it just enough to stay on it but still suffer the side effects. It’s complicated but the hope is to keep my immune system from continuing to attack my nervous system. The treatment is rough and the recovery time is a week to get back on my feet and 2 weeks to fully function.

In between treatments I do my very best to lead a full and active life and to have as much fun as possible.

Riding in Bike MS gives me a reason to get out there and be active. The ride leads to training rides which give me reason to get in shape and stay in shape. And I’m not the only one. When I tell my story to people during training rides I often hear that it’s their reason to get out of the house and get active, too.

My goal is to raise awareness for MS but even more important, to show others with MS that cycling can be accessible and most of all, fun! You will likely see me on my ebike, Minty Fresh. I’ll be on your right, with my baskets and cheer!

I’m grateful to be riding, fundraising and raising awareness with so many amazing people on the Bike MS rides. Connecting with the community is the best part of being involved in MS events.

Strangely, MS has been a gift that has made me appreciate every day of my life so much more.

I am honored to be part of Howard’s Team and such an incredible group of MS Champions.