The first time Heather McRae went to a Meat Fight event, which is an annual barbecue in Dallas that raises funds for the National MS Society, she was skeptical.
“The first year on the way to the event I remember telling my husband, ‘It’s really weird going to an event that’s about a disease I have,’” she says, “but when I got there it wasn’t like that at all. It was so uplifting and empowering. They want to help us find a cure, but not because they think we’re sad people. It’s about drinking and barbecue. It’s about MS, but you don’t feel like it.”
Though McRae has been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) daily for more than 20 years, she had never before connected with others who share her struggle.
Meat Fight founder Alice Laussade, a Lake Highlands resident, created the event to help her own brother, Mike Laussade, who also has MS. The siblings convinced McRae to join their Meat Bike team.
Meat Bike, which is an offshoot of Meat Fight, provides people with MS with a brand new road bike from Richardson Bike Mart and a full cycling kit — Spandex, helmet, shoes and more. The purpose is to get active because cardio can lessen the symptoms of MS. In return, the participants agree to cross the start line at any bike MS event.
She signed on and began training at White Rock Lake with other Meat Bike team members, and for the first time she met other people with MS.
“Getting this bike was really some of the best medicine anyone has ever prescribed to me.”
At first she was nervous about falling. MS affects balance, fatigue, nerve pain and sparks muscular symptoms like cramping, stiffness and difficulty with coordination. “But I didn’t and I was able to ride more and more. It was exciting that I could even accomplish that, and it actually gave me energy and I’m stronger from it too.”
In 2015 McRae rode in her first long-distance ride, and she made it 77 miles — something she never dreamed possible.
She plans to race again and hopes to ride longer distances each year. She’s made Meat Fight and Meat Bike her passions. As the team adds new riders, older riders become mentors, she says. She’s become more comfortable with exercise and with discussing MS.
“It’s a part of my life, and it’s healthier to have it out there and talk with other people who have MS,” she says. “So as you’re riding and things come up, like if you can’t feel your feet one day, it’s easier to talk about it with people who also have MS. It makes me realize, ‘OK I don’t have to hide from this and keep it in the background.’”
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