The MS journey is different for everyone, but for John, who lives with MS, it’s been a journey of connection – to others living with the disease and the broader MS community – both through his volunteer work for the Society and the traveling he and he wife enjoy. “I have lots of MS T-shirts and jackets that I wear,” shares John. “And because of that, I’ve met people from around the world who live with MS or know someone who does. Many people have a connection to it.”
John was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS at the age of 28 and has lived with the disease for 32 years. He is married with three children that are his pride and joy. Despite having MS, John feels fortunate that he was able to work full-time in a rewarding HR career until his retirement. Even after retirement, he has a new part-time career that he enjoys.
Being physically active has always been important to John. He remarks, “I was a runner before I was diagnosed, and I’ve remained active since my diagnosis. Of course, my level of activity has decreased over time, but I haven’t stopped. Post-diagnosis I ran 10 km, five days a week. In 2003, I started to do triathlons. By 2012, I was using a walker, but I still skied. And even now, I still swim.” When asked why it’s important that he continue to be as active as he can John replies, “It’s important for the obvious physical benefits but also for the benefits to mental health. I’ve often said that I believe MS is as much a physical ailment as a mental one, just dealing with the uncertainty that the disease brings.”
John says he knew nothing about MS when he was diagnosed. There were no medications to treat MS at that time. Also, the internet didn’t exist. He went from his neurologist’s office straight to the MS Society’s chapter building in Hamilton, where he lived at the time, and got a brochure about it. Since then, he’s participated in numerous MS Walks, the entry into the MS Society for many Canadians living with or affected by the disease. “After diagnosis, we wonder what we can do,” explains John. “And many of us do the walk. Whether you raise $10 or $1,000, you feel like you’re doing something. It also gives people the opportunity to become part of a community and maybe feel a little less alone on their journey.”
For John, supporting both research and programs & services for those living with MS is equally important. He shares that he is always promoting the MS Knowledge Network as a fantastic, easily accessible resource, especially for those newly diagnosed that likely have questions about everything from nutrition, exercise and mental health to treatments and information about the latest MS research.
Supporting the charitable sector is something that John learned early on in life. “My dad instilled in me the importance of giving back to others,” says John. “He taught me that we were very fortunate and to understand the difference between needs and wants. You can always buy the bigger TV and the nicer car but those aren’t needs. It’s more important to share some of the good fortune you have. That started me down the road of charitable giving and I donate to almost 30 different organizations.”
When not working or volunteering for the MS Society, you can find John and his wife on amazing trips to places like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. They also love the theatre and attending live shows, from professional ones on Broadway and in Toronto to more local theatre in the London area.