Matt Lafleur's Page (team: Fellowship of the Ride)
I have a genetic disorder called Friedreich's ataxia, which greatly impairs my balance, coordination, motor skills, and the clarity of my speech; I’ve required the use of a wheelchair since I was 18. Unfortunately, this disorder is progressively degenerative, which means that whatever symptoms I experience currently, such as poor balance and slurred speech, will become more pronounced over time. And since the disorder is life-shortening, those affected with it suffer a premature death.
There is good news, however. Advances in science and medicine, especially current research looking at genetics, offer hope that a treatment or even a cure of Friedreich’s ataxia is in the future.
Rather than feeling defeated and only hoping for a better future, FA has taught me the importance of living in the present moment. I have discovered that staying active is something I can do; something that makes me feel better - both emotionally and physically; something that helps me forget that I am disabled at all. In February of 2016, I purchased a recumbent trike - a tricycle low to the ground with a seat, so that the rider sits ON IT rather than ON TOP OF IT like most bikes/trikes. Since it has three wheels and I don’t have to worry about balance, I can solely focus on moving my legs in a pedaling rotation and strengthening them. I got my trike when I was 30 - so for over 15 years, I barely used my legs at all. When I got my trike in March of 2016, I could only go 0.6 mph. After practicing 7 days a week (I made it my Lenten penance), I was going 1.4 by May of 2016. By that summer’s end, I was averaging 2.0 mph, and by my 31st birthday in November, 2.4. Now (January 2017) I am around 2.8 mph.
I was asked to participate in the 2017 rideATAXIA in Dallas. I am excited to form a team and to make it out there on April 1. Participating in rideATAXIA is an ideal way for me to look towards the future, supporting research that searches for a cure or a treatment of FA, while allowing me to stay active in the present, and participating in a new adventure on my trike. Please consider sponsoring me or joining my team.
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