MS patient rides for a cause

Walking and feeling fine one day, paralyzed and in a wheelchair the next, 19-year-old Rosemary Sieber refused to give up.

“I was not going to let this get me down,” the now 25-year-old Sieber recalls. “I was determined to take control of my life.”

The “this” that Sieber refers to is multiple sclerosis. In her case, it began with a tingling in both her legs, a feeling as if they were falling asleep for no apparent reason. It left her paralyzed from the waist down and brought her to the “take control” turning point of her life.

And take control she did.

Gradually, but consistently, moving from the wheelchair to a walker, then to walking, running and eventually biking, Sieber just completed her third 100-mile trek to the Jersey Shore as part of the recent Bike MS: City to Shore Ride. She rode as part of the 62-member Marlton-based RE/MAX Connection Realtors team that raised $31,830.

“We’re dedicated to helping and serving our communities and families,” said Christopher J. Brown, President and CEO of RE/MAX Connection Realtors, who hosted a pre-race spaghetti dinner for the agency’s team the night before the event. “We’re proud to support the Bike MS Ride and other foundations that are dedicated to research that saves lives and creates cures.”

Overall, the two-day event — held the weekend of Sept. 24–25 and running from Cherry Hill to the Ocean City boardwalk and back — featured more than 7,000 total bikers and raised nearly $5 million to aid in research to fight the disease and also to help assist local people living with MS.

“When I first ended up in the wheelchair, I was told I might never walk again, much less run or bike,” the Pittsgrove resident said. “I was determined not to let that happen.” Doctors told Siebert her best chance to get out the wheelchair was to develop muscle memory in her legs by repetitive actions.

It took her six months to start walking again and about another year of running before she got on a bike. That was about four years ago and she’s been rolling along since, working on more and more repetitive muscle memory with every mile she bikes.

Siebert works full-time as a nanny while she works on her Masters degree in education from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She received her undergraduate degree from The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Her uncle, Stephen Clyde, team co-captain and a Realtor at RE/MAX Connection, said he could not be more proud of his niece.

“She was an inspiration for all 62 of us, and for many of the riders on other teams as well,” Clyde said. “When she first was diagnosed, I rode in her honor — in 2008 — but by the 2009 race, she thought she was ready to hit the road on her own. She did 100 miles that year, and in 2010 and again this year. She’s amazing!”

Pretty amazing as well, Clyde said, was the fact that — in its first year as part of the Bike MS Ride — the RE/MAX Connection team fielded more than 60 riders and raised more than $30,000.

“There are some very large, very established teams in the Ride that have been competing for years and, in their first year, they had eight riders and raised much, much less money than we did in our first attempt,” he said. “Everyone did a phenomenal job!”

“We were blessed with a beautiful day, weather-wise and we had a great team of competitors,” said team co-captain Brenda Richmond, another Realtor at RE/MAX Connection. “A number of our riders were here for their first time and weren’t sure they could finish.

“One was afraid of heights and felt quite challenged with some of the bridges near the end of the run,” Richmond explained. “but they did it. They just looked at everyone else doing it and they were able to finish. In the end, they — and all of us — were amazed with what we accomplished that weekend — and with what Rosemary has accomplished in just six years.”

Not content just to bicycle, Siebert is a competitive runner as well, planning to compete in the Philadelphia marathon in November, the Florida-based Disney marathon in January and the New York marathon next fall. Her ultimate goal is to eventually qualify to compete someday in the genre’s signature event, the Boston marathon.