In 2004, I started training to run a marathon. I was pretty
excited as I had never run any kind of event let alone such as
grueling distance. But this is when my saga started...pain and
numbness in my right leg. I assumed this was the result of my
heavy training and ran through it. In the end, I managed to run
a 30 km event, two half-marathons and two full marathons. I was
at the top of my game and was so proud of myself. But it was
during my last event that something went horribly wrong. With
two kilometres to go in the Toronto marathon, my right leg and
foot started to cramp uncontrollably. I still managed to hobble
across the finish line but I knew something was wrong.
Upon my return to Montreal, I immediately saw a sports medicine
physician. At this point, running was out of the question. I
could barely walk due to the pain and numbness, and was experiencing
co-ordination and balance problems. I underwent a series of tests
before an MRI in early 2005 confirmed I had MS.
This diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew nothing
of MS but knew it was not good. I thought of wheelchairs and
doctor-assisted suicides. And when I shared this diagnosis with
a few friends and family, not a single person knew what it was.
Is that what Michael J. Fox has? Is MS like diabetes? What does
It has been almost two years since my diagnosis
and it has not been easy. There have been physical challenges
as I have had a number of relapses. Both legs and arms are now
affected...some days I have difficulty walking around the block
and I am experiencing a lot of pain. I am now trying my second
disease-modifying therapy and hope it will work to reduce the
severity and duration of my relapses. And new pain medication
is helping improve my quality of life.
MS hits home
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
While people often think of the physical challenges, the emotional
bumps have been much tougher. They say that when you get diagnosed
with a chronic illness (like MS), you may go through a grieving
process similar to what you experience with any major loss. Depression,
anxiety and stress are common. While MS does not end your life,
the resulting uncertainty about the future can make life difficult.
The months following my diagnosis were among my darkest moments.
I felt worthless as I was no longer able to work, and even the
most simple household tasks became monumental in effort. Worse
still, I had little hope that I could battle this disease.
Making a difference
In January of 2006, I decided
the pity party was over. I am now on long-term disability and
using the time to do volunteer work with the MS Society and,
more particularly, springboard from my communications experience
to promote MS awareness. I also volunteer at my kids’ school
and get to the gym as much as I can.
Volunteering at the MS Society has given me hope. The Society
is staffed with hard-working people dedicated to providing services
to people with MS, and helping to raise funds for research into
a cure. And the pace of advances being made to treat the disease
I realize now that I am not defined by my job or my physical
capabilities (or lack thereof). I can contribute and make a difference
in a lot of different ways. More importantly, I have come to
realize that it is not what happens to you, but what you do about
it. I no longer look at my family and think "poor
them". Instead, I think "lucky me" to be surrounded
with so much love and support.
“Coming out” for a cause
MS targets women
MS is diagnosed in women three times more often than men.
I "came out" last year in an effort to raise funds
for the 2006 Super Cities Walk for MS. What started out as a
modest fundraising campaign quickly snowballed and I found myself
talking to the local media about my condition. In the end, I
raised over $8,200. And while I was very nervous about revealing
my diagnosis in such a public way, as I do not pretend to represent
the 55,000 - 75,000 Canadians living with the disease, I received
a lot of support and encouragement. But the highlight of my campaign
came the day before the Walk (April 29, 2006). It was the same
day that an article about me and the Walk appeared in the Montreal
Gazette. And so when my phone rang, I thought it was another
one of my friends calling to say they saw the article. Instead,
it was the Right Honorable Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime
Minister. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather!
He called to say he had read the article and wanted to wish me
luck on my Walk. Imagine that! Brian Mulroney was motivated
enough by the article to call me! I broke into tears upon hanging
up, knowing that I had done the right thing.
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