After Nancy Speer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1993, she searched for medications to help relieve her main symptoms: right leg weakness and fatigue. “For the first five or so years after my diagnosis, there wasn’t any kind of treatment,” she remembers. “The only thing my doctors could recommend was a vitamin and mineral regimen.”
When injectable medications for MS became available, Speer was ecstatic. Until she tried them. “I had an injectable every week, followed by flu-like symptoms—chills, sweats, nausea—for 48 hours or more,” she says. “I lost every weekend of my life for 11-and-a-half years because of the side effects of the injectables.”
Speer finally got relief when infusion-based and oral MS medications were introduced. Thanks to these therapies, for the last five years she has not only been free of symptoms, but also hasn’t had any medication side effects. “And my MRIs have even come back clean,” she says. “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Speer and her husband, Ray Anderson, are well aware that it took years of painstaking—and expensive—research to develop the medications that improve her quality of life. And they’re devoted to ensuring that other people with MS benefit from research as much as Speer has.
That’s why they’re avid donors to the NOW Campaign, which funds all National MS Society research initiatives.
“We’re pleased about the research on stopping the effects of MS, and we’re hoping future research will get to a point where it can start repairing the damage that’s already been done in people with MS,” Anderson says. “I don’t know if they’ll get to the point where they can cure MS, but if researchers can figure out how to reverse the damage, that would basically create the same effect.”
Every year, Anderson gives all of the royalties he inherited from a group of Colorado oil wells to the Society and two other organizations. Total royalties range from $25,000 to $70,000 a year.
He and Speer are also longtime participants in Bike MS Colorado. “It started when I had a coworker, a fellow CPA, ride in my honor in 1996 or ’97,” Speer said. The following year, Anderson began riding in the annual fundraiser. And in 2001, he bought a tandem bike and he and Speer started riding together. Speer took a two-year break to deal with the effects of thyroid cancer, but got back in the saddle in 2011 and hasn’t missed a year since.
They ride with the RawHinies—the No. 1 fundraising team for Bike MS Colorado. “In the last eight or nine years, we’ve raised over $2 million for MS research,” Speer says. “And we hope to raise $400,000 in 2015 alone.”
Speer’s story is a big reason why RawHinies’ riders are such successful fundraisers. “When we tell potential donors about the progression of the drugs for MS in such a relatively short period of time, and how that’s directly affected Nancy, that really is the selling point,” Anderson says. “Most of the people we approach about donating have been really receptive. I think the word is out there that donating to MS research is a very worthy cause.”