“Search for something greater than self”

As you may know, the MS Gong Ride has been postponed until next year due to COVID-19. So, this year, the Gong Ride is going virtual, which means that not only can you still ride for MS, but you can take part wherever you are. 

Robert Barnes

Robert lives in Tasmania. He is a person living with MS and is passionate about searching beyond his physical limitations for meaning and satisfaction. His interests are wide and varied and this year, he will take part in the MS Virtual Gong Ride on his recumbent bike. Here, he shares the story of his journey with MS and some words of inspiration for anyone who is looking at ways to reach beyond physical limitations.

I had a background in architecture and art prior to the onset of MS at the age of 28 and had commenced a career in teaching while constantly practising and applying my skills in drawing and painting. 

Although the devastating effects of MS flawed everything for me and left me legless in body and collapsed in mind and spirit, something inside of me said, “fight every inch of the way.”

I had extraordinary support and needed encouragement from many sources. My list of references would be one hundred years long, ten thousand people wide and as deep as an ocean filled to capacity with friendship and love.

The one thing I adamantly have to recommend to my fellow persons with MS - develop a passion. Not just an interest, but something which truly is far above the ordinary, and beyond the restricted life imposed upon your present being. Fight every inch of the way.

I try to find a level higher than the everyday, constantly probing life in every way, trying always to find more, thinking and searching beyond the pain of a disabled body.  

I have an interest in collecting. This interest is wide-ranging and without doubt, excessive. From classical music and a library full of art books, to unusual objects from the past - their reach beyond the mediocre renders them priceless to me, even though they have no monetary value.

I have many aspects to my life with MS - recumbent cycling is my other passion. I discovered recumbent tricycles about 30 years ago and I ride on a daily basis. From a slow start, about 3 kilometres distance at first, I am now able to cycle up to 40 kilometres a day. You have to be able to get down into the low seat and stand up from this position, which is actually very difficult for me and requires arm strength.

The back of my bike has a carrier attached and an ordinary handlebar bracketed onto this carrier. Strong rear lights are kept on all the time when I am on the road. My trike is actually the same height as the white posts and when I receive a disparaging comment, I point this out. For someone such as me with weak legs, the easy spinning solves the problem of steep hills. I carry two bottles attached to the bike - one for essential water and the other for body fluids to be emptied at the side of the road. 

Whilst it’s very important that anyone whose thinking of trying recumbent cycling obtain the essential information first, I do think that this adventure may be a possibility for others with MS. My walking has not improved in any way. However, I am filled with a wonderful sense of normality as I slowly speed along the road.

I have recently registered for the Virtual Gong Ride; my team name is Chariots of Fire. I have set a project distance of 750 kilometres for the month and nothing will stop me from doing my very best to honour the commitment. It’s going to be great fun!!!

If you would like to find out how you too can get involved in the Virtual Gong Ride and help MSL raise much-needed funds for people living with MS, check our event page here.

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