Wheels, MS, and Stem Cells

By Stefanie Cowley

A love of cycling starts early, usually after receiving a bike (or tricycle) as a gift on a special occasion. My son declared, “I feel so free!” after he demanded removal of training wheels and took to the neighborhood sidewalk at the age of 4.

This memory came rushing back to me when I sat down with lifelong cyclist, Mike Bertuzzi. He has a great passion for getting on two wheels to burn off stress and spare energy. He said his love of getting on a bicycle started at a very young age and he keeps going at age 60.  What would someone with that kind of mad athletic ability have in common with me, a secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Patient?  Our own stem cells, from our own abdominal fat, changed both of our lives.

Mike Bertuzzi, Stefanie Cowley and John Hunewill.

Mike Bertuzzi, Stefanie Cowley and John Hunewill.

I gathered details of Mike’s story when I heard him speak at a seminar over a year ago, and then again at a recent lunch when we were asked to share our story. His path with stem cells began in an attempt to ward off Alzheimer’s, which had a devastating effect on both of his parents. With a diagnosis of a degenerative disease, frustration quickly sets in for all that are involved due to dealing with the disease itself and the treatments currently offered as standard care. This real life and very personal experience sparked an interest in researching ways he could avoid going through a similar prognosis.

After years of research, he chose to bank his own mesenchymal stem cells with Celltex Therapeutics in Houston. Shortly after, he traveled to a private hospital in Cancun, Mexico where he received an IV of 200 million cells. Within days, Mike noticed benefits including sharper thinking and a measurable improvement in endurance on the bike!

Another challenging life event came when a cycling accident left him with an injured hip and broken pelvis. He was told by his surgeon that it was unlikely he would ride again, and in no way would he be able to return to the same long-distance rides that were part of his lifeblood. So once again, he turned to the co-founder of Celltex, Dr. Stanley Jones, and came up with a plan using his already banked stem cells. Within weeks of receiving another round of stem cell therapy, his doctor said he “healed like a 14-year-old” and was cleared to ride again. Mike’s own stem cells helped him restore and maintain a lifelong passion that could have easily been written off forever.

With no direct connection to Multiple Sclerosis, Mike has ridden in several Bike MS events purely for the love of cycling. Then, he began to hear stories coming from Celltex clients, like myself.

By 2012, aggressive Multiple Sclerosis had taken my career and my ability to walk or stand and I became wheelchair bound in constant debilitating pain. After failing to see results from so many disease modifying drugs, I took a chance using my own stem cells in 2014 and finally had quality of life improvements and disease stabilization. Today, I can even use a standing wheelchair to get on my feet again. While our wheels are on different ends of the spectrum, our mission is the same, and I have accepted Mike’s invitation to be the co-captain for virtual riders wanting to show their support for stem cell therapy awareness.

A realization that more people need this option today has brought Mike to a brand-new goal. He has decided to ride in the upcoming BP MS 150 on behalf of Celltex and advocate for stem cell therapy to help spread awareness. He wants to do this ride as the sole rider on “Team Lone Rider” and has welcomed other stem cell supporters to join his team as virtual members in support of his ride and stem cell awareness.

Today, and as a Celltex stem cell client and advocate myself, I’m asking for your support for Mr. Mike Bertuzzi, The Lone Rider. To help us, please click on “Join Team” and sign up as a virtual rider and help us create an awareness campaign that could change the life of someone you know.