River Roar competitor pursues dreams while battling disease

Copaxone, the drug which is a vital part of Ruben's daily regimen to combat MS, also serves as the sponsor of his racing team. / Jason DuBois

In 2004, Ruben Ascencio was a man in his mid-30s seeking the drive to pursue his competitive ambitions, never imagining that his inspiration would emanate from devastation.

"I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and at the time I wasn't racing anything," said Ascencio, a husband and father of two young children. "I had all these dreams, things that I wanted to do, and that was one of them. Next thing you know, life passes you by."

Roughly 18 months after that diagnosis, the Detroit native was competing on the powerboat racing circuit, currently in Formula-Two. But despite a strict regimen of drug treatment, diet and exercise, Ruben's disease is a constant foe.

"There's some battles, you're not gonna win 'em all," he said. "There's some days that I just feel absolutely lousy. But you learn to read your body, if you have one of those days, take a knee. Don't be proud, take a knee, relax, and get ready for the next day."

As devastating as Ruben's diagnosis was from a physical standpoint, it was his mental and spirtual strength which were most weakened. But the love and support of those closest to him began Ruben on the road to recovery.

"The biggest advocate was my wife," he explained. "She's the one who said, 'Hey listen, enough of feeling sorry for yourself. Let's deal with this together.' She threw me a bone, she let me spend a little money to go racing before we got together with Team Copaxone. But if it wasn't for her pushing me off the couch, saying let's do something, who knows where I would have been."

Much like his races on the water, Ruben's ongoing battle against Multiple Sclerosis requires keen awareness, support from others, and constant dedication...all with one clear mission in mind.

"You can't give up. You can't not try to do something because you have this disease," said Ascencio. "Set the carrot out there, go for it. If you taste it, excellent. If you don't, re-adjust. But don't give up, this life's too short, there's too many good things happening to let this disease get in the way."