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Peddling for a cure

While many folks are relaxing this fall weekend, Sheri Paulson is hard at it, pumping her bicycle on a 100-mile ride in Tennessee. Sheri is a wife, a mom, a resident of Galesburg, N.D., a bank employee, a biker, a Fargo Marathon participant and a...

Sheri Paulson

While many folks are relaxing this fall weekend, Sheri Paulson is hard at it, pumping her bicycle on a 100-mile ride in Tennessee.

Sheri is a wife, a mom, a resident of Galesburg, N.D., a bank employee, a biker, a Fargo Marathon participant and a hero.

This year she was named winner of a BAMS Foundation Heroes Award. BAMS, an acronym for Band Against MS, was formed by country music star Clay Walker, who has multiple sclerosis, the neurological disease that is the leading cause of nontraumatic disability in young people.

BAMS gives its award to those who have MS or contribute to its cure.

Sheri qualifies on both counts.

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Crisis on a cruise

Sheri, a credit analyst at the Bank of the West, Fargo, and her husband, Alan, were high school sweethearts.

They've had their share of heartache, suffering several miscarriages and the loss of a daughter due to a birth defect.

But thankfully, they have their daughter Amanda, 19. And they have a fine marriage, which was a reason to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary in 2001 by taking a cruise to Mexico.

That's when it hit her. "I woke up completely groggy and tired," she says. "While trying to take the steps to breakfast, my legs felt so heavy and swollen, I could barely lift them. It took an enormous amount of energy to get up the stairs."

Back home, she had trouble sleeping, her body trembled, her side would tingle and go numb.

At first doctors were stymied. Then a neurologist gave her a brain and spine MRI and a spinal tap.

And there it was: Sheri had MS.

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This led to anger, fear, depression. "I cried for four days straight," she says. "All I could think was the worst," such as being confined to a wheelchair and missing many events in Amanda's life.

MS gave her fatigue, insomnia, numbness and other symptoms. But it also gave her a cause.

$11,400 and more

In July, she rode 175 miles in southeastern North Dakota to raise money to fight MS. Then the BAMS team invited her to participate in the National MS Society's 1,000 person ride in Tennessee. It began Saturday and winds up today.

Sheri is a champion fund-raiser; she has raised more than $11,400 this year. For her efforts, she will be honored at the National MS Tour of Champions in Orlando, Fla, in February, becoming the first from North Dakota to attend the event.

Bank of the West has backed her all the way, giving $500 and hosting a root-beer-float fundraiser.

Sheri met country singer Clay Walker when he performed at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot. "He was open about his MS," she says, "and is a true inspiration and advocate for this cause."

Sheri dedicated her North Dakota ride to Dr. Karen Garnaas, her neurologist at MeritCare but who now practices in South Dakota, and the Tennessee ride to the memory of her late father, Charlie Brown, who she says was a source of strength to her.

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She also credits her mother, Maureen Anderson, for always supporting her, cheering her on as she heads out on her bike.

Sheri says she's had some wonderful moments in her life. An emotional one was this:

When she was first diagnosed, she says, "My prayer to God was to give me six active years" with her daughter Amanda. Now, she says, "I have surpassed that

six-year milestone and am on bonus time."

That's why running in the Fargo Marathon relay event this year was especially meaningful. Because the young woman running the first leg, then handing the baton to her, was Amanda.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487;

or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

Sheri Paulson

Opinion by Bob Lind
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