Kristina Dean, center, poses with her family during a hike. From left are her 10-year-old son Spencer, 14-year-old son Cooper, 10-year-old son Cameron, her husband Troy and their family dog, Pirate. Contributed

SCARBOROUGH ⁠— Though uncertain of her future, 47-year-old Kristina Dean isn’t letting a medical diagnosis interfere with her lust for life.

“Not knowing what tomorrow looks like, that motivates me,” Dean said. “I do everything I can, stay as strong as I can and say yes to things I may not have before. I do the best I can for my family.”

Dean, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in June 2018, will be riding in the Bike MS fundraiser Aug. 10-11 in Biddeford to spread awareness and shed light on the disease.

Bike MS will start and end at the University of New England on Hills Beach Road, with rides of 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles. Dean will be participating in the 25-mile ride both days, for a total of 50 miles.

Money raised will be donated to the National MS Society.

While she doesn’t consider herself a cyclist, Dean said the goal of participating is to push herself out of her comfort zone. By proving to herself she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, she also hopes to inspire others coping with MS.

“I realized early on this is an extremely unpredictable disease,” she said. “I have no ideas what’s going to happen in the next six months, six years… I might be fine, but I don’t want to look back and wish I could have done more.”

According to the National MS Society, the disease is unpredictable and often disabling, attacking the central nervous system and disrupting information flow to the brain, and between the brain and body.

While symptoms range in severity, they may include vision problems, tingling and numbness, pains and spasms, weakness or fatigue, balance problems or dizziness, bladder issues and various other cognitive problems.

Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and at least two to three times more often they are women. The cause of the disease is still unknown, although scientists believe genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

While Dean said her symptoms are not yet extremely debilitating, she experienced early signs of MS that included double vision, extreme vertigo, chronic fatigue and loss of balance.

“I thought I was having a stroke, my face was drooping on one side and symptoms just got progressively worse,” she said.

Dean keeps her symptoms at bay through physical therapy, which has helped her maintain her balance and strength. In preparation for her two-day ride, she has been riding and doing yoga, although fatigue can still take a toll.

But even in the face of this challenge, she finds reason to be positive.

“I listen to my body and rest when I need to, and I mean, I’m lucky,” she said. “… I know people who were diagnosed 30 or 40 years ago, and back then there was no real way to mitigate it.”

Dean will be riding with Team Maine Adaptive, a network of people from Maine Adaptive Sports. The recreational center offers programs teaching adaptive sports activities to people ages 4 and up with physical disabilities.

The 15 members of the team raised $11,500 for the cause as of Aug. 7. Dean has raised more than $4,300 – exceeding her goal of $4,000.

She said participating in with a group has made the process a little less intimidating, and created a sense of community that makes her feel welcome and excited to be participating in the event.

“Part of me is doing it for those people I know with MS that can’t do it,” she said. “There symptoms are severe enough that they’re at a certain point in their life where they can’t participate.”

She said more than anything, she wants to show her children she can push through any barriers life sends her way.

“My husband and I have three boys, and I need to keep going and be active and chase them around,” Dean said. “I don’t want them to be impacted by my diagnosis more than they have to be. So I keep doing the best I can, for myself and for my children.”