Steph Schuman channels her love of cycling into a fundraising tool for the fight against multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease she has battled for two decades.
Written byAnne M. Russell
Steph Schuman uses her bicycle to fight multiple sclerosis (MS) in two different but effective ways. Diagnosed with MS 21 years ago, Steph relies on fitness from her road cycling to help control the disease’s troubling symptoms. And she’s a top fundraiser with the cycling team that raised more money than any other at last year’s Bike MS: Coastal Challenge event.
Her 56-rider, Team NOW, brought in an astonishing $108,000 in donations for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Team NOW, which stands for “No Opportunity Wasted,” is led by Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan and his wife, Louise. The two-day event covered 150 miles from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara last fall. Even more impressive is Steph’s own personal lifetime fundraising total—a whopping $30,000.
The 46-year-old started participating in the Bike MS charity rides in 2008. She began with a team sponsored by her employer, Chatsworth-based Pharmavite. Three years ago, she moved to Phil’s Team NOW. Today Steph is the MS NOW team’s captain.
The Valley native was just 24 when she was diagnosed with the most common form of MS, known as “relapsing-remitting” for its habit of coming and going, causing periodic symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling to problems with vision, coordination and cognition. In its other forms the disease progresses steadily, but Steph says her type of MS is “the ‘easiest’ one, for what that’s worth.”
Initially it took two months to get her diagnosis. “I had some weird symptoms with my vision and weakness in my legs. They thought I had vertigo,” she explains. When a neurologist finally told her she had an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system with a cause that is unknown and for which there is no cure, she was “devastated.”
Since then, however, Steph has learned a lot about the disease and figured out how to manage it. “I’m pretty good about taking care of myself,” she says. “I find exercise and keeping active helps. But if I’m tired, I know I need to rest. I know now when to stop; it’s taken me a long time to learn.”
Because of the knowledge she’s gained with time, Steph is now an informal mentor to others who are just starting their battle with MS. “People ask me questions for newly diagnosed friends and family members,” she says. “Since I have been living with MS for 21 years now and stay relatively healthy, they look to me for guidance.”