This year for me has been about stretching my limits — from rejoining Turtle Creek Chorale to riding again in the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.
Two years ago, I was dianosed with something called PML and my life was turned upside down.
For those of you who don’t know, PML — or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy — is a rare and often fatal viral disease characterized by progressive damage to or inflammation of the white matter of the brain at multiple locations.
It occurs almost exclusively in people with severe immune deficiency, and symptoms include weakness or paralysis, loss of vision, impaired speech and cognitive deterioration.
I had always been a social person, but then I got PML.
Suddenly, I was having to concentrate on accomplishing simple things — like eating, walking and building up my strength again.
Two years ago riding a bike again, or even driving my car, were out of the question.
After living with AIDS for more than 20 years, just simple day-to-day survival was the highlight of my day.
So I sat on the sidelines, watching life go by. Even painting — something that had given me comfort before — had to be relearned.
What was the turning point? For me, it was thinking outside the box.
For so long I concentrated on comparing my accomplishments to others.
But LSR stresses that this is a ride, not a race. And TCC stresses family. For me, the two are a good combination.
I have learned that you do your best and the most important thing is showing up.
So on Sept. 26-27, I’ll be doing something that, a year ago, I thought would never again be possible: I’ll be riding a three-wheel bike I call Bernice — loaned to me by Beth Farrell at B&B Bicycles in Cedar Hill — in the two-day, 165-mile Lone Star Ride.
The Lone Star Ride has long been a favorite of mine. I had been involved since the beginning.
But this year holds a different meaning.
This year, when I sit in that chair and pedal, I’ll be free — free of thinking about balance or the fear of falling.
My mind will be free to race on into the future and the next ride.
Is it rough, not having been on a bike for so long? Hell, yes!
Is it worth it? Hell, yes!
I always said I ride because I can, because others can’t.
But after the PML diagnosis, I had thought my bike riding days were over.
But now I’m finding that, after looking outside of my own limitations and thinking outside the box, there are ways to achieve anything.
In anything you attempt, you do what you can, but the most important thing is that you show up.
On Sept. 26-27, I am going to show up for Lone Star Ride. You can, too.
Jim Frederick is an artist. See his work and read his blog at www.JimFrederickStudios.com.
The Lone Star Ride Journal will appear weekly in Dallas Voice through Sept. 25, the Friday preceding the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS on Sept. 26-27.
For more information on Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, or to donate, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.