Eight years ago Mike Zimits knew something wasn't right. He was experiencing numbness and tingling in his arms and legs, and after suddenly going numb on one side while giving a presentation at work, he went to the doctor. Worried that it was sign of a brain tumor, a battery of tests confirmed something that hadn't even been on his radar—multiple sclerosis.
For the first year, Mike had difficulty dealing with the diagnosis. He didn't tell anyone but his family; he isolated himself from his friends and coworkers; he ate and drank too much.
After hitting his lowest point after a long night out, he realized that he needed to change his life. Mike says, "I started telling people close to me that I had MS. This was a huge weight off my shoulders."
The next step was to contact the New York City chapter of the National MS Society to educate himself. And then, he started to ride. "I knew that I had to get in shape, so I chose an endurance sport. Long distance cycling. When I took my first five-mile ride I was exhausted. But as tired as I felt, it was good to be taking action." He quickly lost 30 pounds and ended the year by riding the 100-mile route in the NYC chapter's MS Bike Tour.
Bitten by the cycling bug, he continued to ride and push himself further by participating in cycling events around the world, including the MS Global, a six-day fundraising bike tour covering 500 km through the Pyrenees, the mountain range straddling France and Spain, similar to the terrain found on the Tour de France.
Today, Mike is 100 pounds lighter, a top MS fundraiser, an ambassador for MS LifeLines—an educational support service provided by Serono and Pfizer—and a seasoned cyclist. He is also the newly appointed MS Cycling Ambassador for the Tyler Hamilton Foundation. In September 2005, Mike participated in his third MS Global ride. He challenged himself to conquer this steep course in order to raise MS awareness and to prove to himself and others, that even though he has MS, the disease does not control him. After completing this demanding ride, Mike said with pride, "for this one week I was not an MS patient on a bike…I was a cyclist."
A changed man from who he was a few years ago, Mike is healthier, both emotionally and physically. Mike says, "I can't stop MS and declare an outright win, but I can finish each day strong and in control... near the front. I have MS and I'm lucky. As a matter of fact, I'm one of the luckiest guys in the world. MS has taught me a lot about who I am and what it is to truly be a success."