MTB > MS

A moving and inspiring film from GoWhere Scotland‘s Andy McKenna on how being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis has impacted his life and his riding.

You may recognise Andy from his various appearances in mbr features over the years, or from his hilarious misadventures with Ed Oxley.

“I guess we all like to think we’re bulletproof. That nothing’s going to change the way we live and how we do the things we love. Since that day [being diagnosed with MS] being here in these wild rugged spaces is more of a need than ever before. This menace won’t beat me.”

You can watch the film in its entirety at this weekend’s Kendal Mountain Festival.

The film, and through raising awareness of alternative ways of living with this disease, Andy wants to raise money for the two unsung heroes of MS; two charities that have made a massive impact on his life and that of many others challenged by MS: Overcoming MS, and The Swank MS Foundation.

Go here to support Andy in his money-raising mission.

Andy McKenna

Andy’s​ ​a​ ​mountain​ ​biker​ ​since​ ​the​ ​1980’s​ ​and​ ​a​ ​professional​ ​mountain​ ​bike​ ​guide​ ​making​ ​his living​ ​from​ ​running​ ​mountain​ ​bike​ ​adventures​ ​in​ ​Scotland.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​diagnosed​ ​with​ ​Multiple Sclerosis​ ​(MS)​ ​in​ ​2007.​ ​Although​ ​he​ ​didn’t​ ​know​ ​it​ ​then,​ ​far​ ​from​ ​being​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​his​ ​mountain bike​ ​career​ ​and​ ​his​ ​life,​ ​this​ ​(apparently)​ ​incurable​ ​degenerative​ ​neurological​ ​disease​ ​was​ ​the start​ ​of​ ​a​ ​different​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​mountain​ ​bike​ ​journey.​ ​A​ ​hysterical,​ ​ridiculous,​ ​rewarding,​ ​precious one.

Everyone​ ​experiences​ ​challenges​ ​in​ ​life.​ ​Some​ ​get​ ​buried​ ​under​ ​the​ ​veneer​ ​of​ ​a​ ​normal existence.​ ​Facebook​ ​selfies​ ​and​ ​glorious​ ​Instabangers​ ​don’t​ ​always​ ​tell​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​story.​ ​Finding the​ ​connection​ ​between the​ ​realities​ ​of​ ​life​ ​and how​ ​we​ ​deal​ ​with​ ​them​ ​- when​ ​coping​ ​from behind​ ​handlebars​ ​is​ ​the primary​ ​tactic​ ​-​ ​and​ ​will hopefully​ ​strike​ ​a​ ​chord with​ ​many​ ​whether​ ​they ride​ ​or​ ​not.​ ​Biking​ ​helps to​ ​cope,​ ​to​ ​escape​ ​and​ ​to keep​ ​Andy​ ​sane.

MS​ ​is​ ​an​ ​‘incurable’ degenerative​ ​and disabling​ ​neurological disease​ ​affecting​ ​the brain,​ ​spinal​ ​cord​ ​and optic​ ​nerves​ ​of​ ​almost 2.5​ ​million​ ​people (mainly​ ​20-40​ ​year​ ​olds) worldwide.

It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​widespread​ ​disabling​ ​neurological​ ​condition​ ​of​ ​young​ ​adults​ ​around​ ​the​ ​world and​ ​it​ ​usually​ ​causes​ ​attacks​ ​of​ ​neurologic​ ​symptoms​ ​including​ ​vision​ ​loss,​ ​paralysis,​ ​numbness, and​ ​walking​ ​difficulties.

Symptoms​ ​appear​ ​because​ ​nerves​ ​in​ ​the​ ​brain​ ​and​ ​spinal​ ​cord​ ​lose​ ​their​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​transmit signals.​ ​Myelin,​ ​a​ ​complex​ ​substance​ ​that​ ​surrounds​ ​and​ ​insulates​ ​nerve​ ​fibres,​ ​is​ ​essential​ ​for nerves​ ​to​ ​conduct​ ​electricity​ ​and​ ​carry​ ​out​ ​their​ ​function.​ ​Myelin​ ​is​ ​damaged​ ​in​ ​MS,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​nerve​ ​fibres​ ​themselves.

The​ ​attacks​ ​strike​ ​when​ ​cells​ ​and​ ​proteins​ ​of​ ​the​ ​body’s​ ​immune​ ​system,​ ​which​ ​normally defend​ ​the​ ​body​ ​against​ ​infections,​ ​leave​ ​the​ ​blood​ ​vessels​ ​serving​ ​the​ ​central​ ​nervous​ ​system, pour​ ​into​ ​the​ ​brain​ ​and​ ​spinal​ ​cord,​ ​and​ ​destroy​ ​myelin.

The​ ​specific​ ​triggering​ ​mechanism​ ​that​ ​releases​ ​the​ ​immune​ ​system​ ​to​ ​attack​ ​its​ ​own​ ​healthy tissue​ ​remains​ ​unknown,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​cause​ ​of​ ​MS​ ​is​ ​still​ ​its​ ​biggest​ ​mystery​​.

Medicines​ ​try​ ​to​ ​lessen​ ​the​ ​frequency​ ​of​ ​relapses​ ​and​ ​slow​ ​the​ ​progression​ ​of​ ​the​ ​disease. Despite​ ​existing​ ​for​ ​150​ ​years​ ​there​ ​is​ ​still​ ​no​ ​‘medical​ ​cure’​ ​for​ ​MS.

Andy​ ​and​ ​a​ ​growing​ ​community​ ​believe​ ​there​ ​is​ ​an​ ​alternative​ ​way​ ​of​ ​managing​ ​the​ ​disabling effects​ ​of​ ​MS.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​not​ ​a​ ​pill​ ​or​ ​an​ ​injection​ ​-​ ​it’s​ ​a​ ​set​ ​of​ ​lifestyle​ ​changes.

Fundraising​ ​associated​ ​with​ ​Stoked​ ​on​ ​MS​ ​and​ ​This​ ​Way​ ​Up​ ​will​ ​be​ ​directed​ ​towards​ ​two charities:​ ​The​ ​Swank​ ​Foundation,​ ​and,​ ​Overcoming​ ​MS​ ​-​ ​without​ ​whose​ ​support​ ​Andy​ ​would not​ ​be​ ​leading​ ​the​ ​life​ ​he​ ​is.​ ​So​ ​many​ ​more​ ​people​ ​should​ ​have​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​live​ ​well​ ​with MS.

To​ ​learn​ ​more​ ​about​ ​the​ ​approaches​ ​Andy​ ​uses​ ​to​ ​live​ ​his​ ​life​ ​with​ ​MS,​ ​or​ ​to​ ​support​ ​his​ ​mission visit​ ​his​ ​Facebook​ ​Page​ ​‘Stoked​ ​on​ ​MS’.

Video description

“A story that rarely feature on timelines, in tweets or Instagram feeds – This Way Up is a ‘broken’ man’s journey by bike through his homeland. Scotland.

“Andy McKenna, mountain biker since the 1980’s and a professional mountain bike guide making his living from running mountain bike adventures in Scotland was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2007. Although he didn’t know it then, far from being the end of his mountain bike career and his life, this (apparently) incurable degenerative neurological disease was the start of a different kind of mountain bike journey. A hysterical, ridiculous, rewarding, precious one. If only he knew what lay ahead.

“Everyone experiences challenges in life. Some get buried under the veneer of a normal existence. Facebook selfies and glorious Instabangers don’t always tell the whole story. Finding the connection between the realities of life and how we deal with them – when coping from behind handlebars is the primary tactic – and will hopefully strike a chord with many whether they ride or not. Biking helps to cope, to escape and to keep Andy sane.”