Riding through Craig for a cause, Steve Schwier battles through Meniere’s with purpose
After standing still a few minutes too long, Steve Schwier reached over to grab ahold of the sleeve of his brother, Dave, for balance.
“I’m always dizzy,” Steve said.
Steve has Meniere’s disease, a rare inner ear disorder without a cure that causes vertigo, weakness, hearing loss and ringing in the ears.
“I was diagnosed 9 years ago, and the first 8 years, I was too sick to do anything,” Steve said. “A doctor a year ago made it manageable, helped me get out of bed, but it stole my job, stole sports, stole snowboarding, stole music. I had to quit doing everything I loved to do and disappeared. Last 9 years has been trying to live with a chronic illness.”
But once Steve got to a point where he could get out and do a little more, he decided, why not do a lot more?
“Woke up one day and decided I’m going to ride my bike across the country, try to raise some awareness, maybe some money,” Steve said.
Steve called Dave and they got going.
“We put it on social media, and people started following the trip, we raised like $10,000,” he said. “Then this year, people asked, ‘Well what are you going to do now?’”
In the meantime, the brothers had written a book about the condition: “On the Vertigo: One Sick Man’s Journey to Make a Difference”. It’s doing well on Amazon, Steve said.
“We had momentum, so we didn’t want to lose it,” Steve said. “We left Sept. 1 last year, so we thought we’d leave Sept. 1 this year again.”
The first ride, which Steve made via e-bike, was from Denver to Columbus, Ohio. Now the Silverthorne-based rider is headed west.
“We’re going to San Francisco,” Steve said. “We call it ‘Escape to Alcatraz.’”
The Schwiers were rolling through Craig on Thursday afternoon after departing Steamboat Springs in the morning.
It was already feeling pretty rocky, Steve said.
“Around the world in the Meniere’s community, they hear ‘On the Vertigo’ they equate it with these trips we’re doing to raise money and awareness,” Steve said. “So we’re doing it again, Day 2, glad to stop in Craig, I have a friend in Craig with Meniere’s, and we’re staying with her tonight.”
Steve said awareness is critical to the mission.
“The No. 1 message is first of all awareness, the trip brings awareness, but no awareness there’s no funding,” he said. “Nobody’s heard of this disease, it’s very rare. I want to get the word out that this disease needs funding and research. It’s not terminal, but it’s chronic. Nobody wants to put money into that, they say he’ll live until he’s 100.”
It’s also important to him that people know he’s not competing with other illnesses or issues.
“Everyone has a burden to carry, I’m not trying to outcompete anyone’s disease or situation,” Steve said. “I’m not saying I’m sicker than you, my life’s worse than yours, everyone has to deal with it, this is my corner, my little disease. But nobody’s really doing it, most people with my disease stay inside all the time. I’m showing people get out if you feel like it, do something positive. Don’t let it kill your life. Deal with your suffering and try to enjoy something.”
Dave is the younger brother, but he’s the “business caretaker,” for Steve, the latter said.
“He does all the posting, filming, I just ride my bike and stay safe,” he said. “I couldn’t do this without him.”
Dave said it’s become a purpose for him, too.
“When I started, I saw him first diagnosed, and when he called me saying he wanted to do it, I said anything you want to do is fine, I saw how bad off he was,” Dave said. “We discussed, do we even make this? Is it a good idea? But he wanted to do it, get off the couch and ride a bike, having not done anything for 8 years. I said if he wants to do this, I’m 100% behind it. What it turned into on the trip, all the people following us around the world, every day messages about what it means to these people, every night it was comments, thanks for what you’re doing.”
For both brothers, it’s a passion now. It’s being a voice for a nearly silent worldwide community.
“It feels like we’re making a difference,” Steve said.
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