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Freeland woman rides coast-to-coast for MS support
Diane Mattens refuses to let her sometimes-moody renter affect her life negatively.
The renter isn’t some wild young adult or cranky senior. Mattens lives with multiple sclerosis (MS), and the Freeland woman calls the degenerative disease her body’s tenant.
“I think of MS as a renter in my house,” Mattens said. “MS rents space from me, and we have an agreement. And that is if I eat right and get enough sleep and keep my stress at a minimum and get enough exercise, then MS stays in a quiet part of the house. So far, it’s kind of worked for me.”
The hyperimmune disease spurred Mattens to bike 4,295 miles from Bar Harbor, Maine to Seattle. Cycling across 13 states will take almost 70 days from May 28 to Aug. 4, and Mattens is now on Day Two of her trek to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis.
Biking from the East Coast to the Pacific Northwest has several meanings and motivating factors for Mattens. Having lived with MS since 1985, she learned to functionally live with it by exercising and eating the right foods. Also, her dad died in 1985 at the age of 55 while biking on a ride for multiple sclerosis support.
“This is a journey for me, and maybe a personal challenge,” said Mattens, who kept her diagnosis private for many years. “The real message, for me, is that there are many faces to people with MS. I have rarely talked about my disease. What I realized when I turned 55, is if I want to have an impact and put a face to MS, I have to tell my story.”
As part of her journey with Bike the US for MS, Mattens set a fundraising goal of $13,000. She’s nearly there at $12,361 (someone donated $13, Mattens’ lucky number), and all the money supports people living with multiple sclerosis and research for a cure. Living with MS can make movement difficult, depending on how far along the degeneration it is. Money from the ride can install grab bars in bathrooms and ramps into someone’s home, making it easier for them to stay active.
“The money is going toward home modification projects that help people stay independent living at home and keeps them moving,” Mattens said.
“I would love to see a cure for MS in my lifetime.”
She’ll ride with a bunch of strangers across the northern United States. At night, they will make camp with tents. Mattens’ sleeping arrangement is a bit more high-brow, however.
“I’m the most senior person on this ride,” she said. “After trying out many different types of mattresses, I decided my fear of snakes and bugs precluded the possibility of a tent.”
The emergency room nurse at Whidbey General Hospital estimated she rode at least 1,000 miles as training for her Bike the US for MS trip. Mattens cycled between 60 and 70 miles at least twice a week around Whidbey and pedaled with a spin class another 20 miles a couple of days each week.
“I thought I was in really good shape in my 20s. I’m learning a lot about how to train smarter.”
Mattens’ ride may be supported here.