"My love for my mom is real and I want her to beat this damn thing," Moore tells PEOPLE
Credit: Gregg DeGuire/AFF-USA.com/Getty

When Shemar Moore‘s mother, Marilyn, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the Criminal Minds actor told himself she just needed to take it easy.

“I went through the whole denial thing for a couple of years,” the actor, 45, tells PEOPLE of learning of his mother’s diagnosis in 1999. “I was like, ‘Take a couple aspirin and go to sleep…You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Go get a massage and slow down.’ ”

But after some time passed, Moore began to realize just how much the debilitating disease was affecting his mother – but also what he could do to help her.

“I just had to check myself and say, ‘Listen, she’s scared and asking for help, so let’s help her turn in the right direction,’ ” says the only-child, who had his mother move from San Francisco to Los Angeles so she would be close by. “I’ve just been learning about the meds and learning about how it affects different people. Five years ago, we thought she was going to be wheelchair bound. Then, by just doing some homework and really seeing what MS was all about, we learned that MS is affecting her, but not entirely. We were able to be specific about the MS and other factors in her life.”

Moore admits his mother, now 72, still has her “down days.” But other days, “she’s bouncing around and trying to do a little dance in the kitchen, going down to the beach or to a ballgame or goes out with friends to a play or a dinner.”

Moore has also turned his attention to raising awareness about the disease. He’s raised significant funds through his self-described “fun, cute, silly, sexy” clothing line Baby Girl and cycles 100-miles annually for the Bike MS: Coastal Challenge.

“People may see me as an advocate, and I guess I am, but I just don’t see myself that way,” Moore says. “I’m gonna ride that bike every year, as long as my body will allow it, and it will because I’m healthy, I don t have MS, and I’m gonna continue to hug my mother.”

And his mother couldn’t be more grateful.

“My quality of life is totally determined by Shemar’s generosity,” says Marilyn, who will be honored alongside her son at the Southern California and Nevada Chapters of the National MS Society at the organization’s Dinner of Champions on Thursday. “You take care of your parents, you put your kids through college, and then it’s kind of you. I wasn’t expecting this.”

RELATED VIDEO: When Does Shemar Moore Like to Have Clean Underwear?

“She drives me crazy and she’s a pain in my ass, but she’s my mother and I wouldn’t have the life I have without her and how strong she was to give me the life that I have,” Moore counters. “My love for my mom is real and I want her to beat this damn thing. She’s my Super Woman and she needs to know that someone is out there fighting for her at all times.”