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Heavy Metal Fight MS

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Heavy metal fights MS

By Bea Vongdouangchanh

For Immediate Release

Ottawa – April 5, 2017 - Matthew Fenton is five feet and seven inches tall, weighs 220 pounds, and has visible tattoos and piercings. The 47-year-old works 40 hours in construction and is a part-time DJ for online radio station Metal Nation Radio. He also has multiple sclerosis and sometimes parks in a disabled parking spot.

“I still work, but I can only walk so far and use a disabled parking sticker. Sometimes I don’t use it, but when I do and I get out of my car, it’s frowned upon,” he says. “People say to me, ‘What the hell are you parking there for, you don’t look sick.’ Well, number one, these placards are not for sick people, they’re for people with disabilities. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

Raising awareness around MS—an unpredictable autoimmune disease which Fenton describes using “the old light switch theory of wire in between losing sheathing and shorting out”—is why the avid heavy metal music fan, also known as DJ Matty Grant, participates in the annual MS Walk.

“People always look at metal heads as weird guys, just like they look at people with tattoos or bikers—they all think they’re hard people, but they’re soft teddy bears just like myself. It’s to unite people like that,” he says. “I do it to keep awareness, so people understand it’s a hidden disability. … Yes it is seen sometimes, but a lot of times it’s not, from everything from the anxiety to depression to whatever.”

Fenton was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in 2000 when he was living in his hometown of Kapuskasing, Ont., where he was driving trucks and busses. He knew something was wrong when he couldn’t operate the clutch on his vehicle. “I’d push in my clutch and it would push my leg back, so I had no power in my left leg,” he says.

He had a relapse between 2002 and 2004, but since then he’s had no attacks and is “doing quite well.” In 2010, he participated in his first MS Walk and raised some money by organizing a concert called MS Metal Therapy with multiple performers. He hosted four of them over the years, and recently, the band Crone Of War from Sudbury hosted one in their home town in Matty's honor this past February called "Metal Fights MS". The event raised well over $2500 for Matty's Walk team.

“Lots of people in the metal community have MS,” he says, pointing to Billy Talent drummer Aaron Solowoniuk. “Most people who walk on my team are part of the metal community. … We’re not letting MS bring us down.”

For Fenton, fighting MS is a “mind over matter” battle. “If you let MS beat you you’re going downhill, it’s just a matter of time. If you fight it until the bitter end and keep going and try to be a regular Joe in society, still working, still plugging away, and you go for that, then you’ll make it,” he says. “Yeah, you’ll have a struggle once in awhile, but don’t stop, keep going.”

Approximately 100,000 Canadians have MS, a disease which attacks the central nervous system’s myelin, the protective covering of the nerves. According to the MS Society of Canada, “MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.”

The MS Society of Ottawa Walk takes place on April 30 at Tunney’s Pasture. Fenton says that he appreciates all funds raised locally stay in the community where local MS societies can help those who need it, whether it is education, mobility equipment support or medical research. “The MS Society has helped me when I needed it,” he says. “I personally look at the walk every year as a celebration of possible success because the success is possibly going to be there one day and that success of course is a cure.”

As for the awareness building he’s worked on for almost a decade, he says it’s slow but every year there is progress. “I definitely wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t hopeful,” he says. “Hope keeps me going.”

About the Mandarin MS Walk - The Ottawa Mandarin MS Walk will take place on Sunday, April 30, 2017 at Tunney’s Pasture at the new location of 70 Colombine Way. Participants can enjoy the option of a 3 or 5 km accessible walk route along the scenic Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway or a 5 km timed run component. Over 1200 participants are expected with a goal of just over $270,000 in pledges. Registration and breakfast will begin at 9 am and the walk will be kicked off by the Royal Canadian Air Command Pipes and Drums leading the walkers out. A barbeque lunch will follow at noon and there will be a children’s activity area with a bubble bounce and the return of the Cos Player characters. This year marks the 26th annual MS Walk in Canada.

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