WAMS Gala Luncheon April 21, 2017 Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Women of WAMS

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Women of WAMS features inspiring women and their thoughts on networking, finding work/life balance, mentoring, and the importance of ending MS with the WAMS program.

BCY WAMS JGallagher Jacqueline Gallagher is the Vice President and Managing Partner of David Aplin Group, a recruiting firm.

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

I was diagnosed with MS in April of 2018, In an effort to learn more about the support in our City and about the MS Society, I decided to attend the luncheon in November of 2018. After attending, I wanted to get involved. The energy in the room was infectious and the stories we are touching.

What role has the MS Society played in your life?

I’m just getting to know the MS Society as I am not quite at the 1-year anniversary of my diagnosis.

Why do you think events like WAMS and MS Bike are important?

These events have created a platform not just for donations, but for awareness. They are an opportunity for people to share their stories, communities to come together, and for people to publicly share their support

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

A great leader is someone authentic and inspiring.

How do you find work/life balance?

BCY WAMS JGallagher I plan my days strategically. I look at the items on my agenda that are not negotiable. These are sleep, nutrition, and exercise. I make certain all of these “needs” are accounted for in my day first. I then layer in the negotiable stuff, work meetings, time with friends and my spouse, extra curricular stuff, etc… I am very fortunate to have a flexible role and flexible employer that knows I am high performing. Some days my job happens between 9:00am and 5:00pm and other days, it happens between 6:00am and 11:00pm – I am granted the flexibility to get the job done versus punch a clock. I schedule my workout like I schedule a work meeting and I commit to the time. Some days its yoga or Pilates, other days its weight lifting or cardio and as often as possible its skiing, soccer or hiking.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

Who wouldn't want to chat with Oprah?

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

I have had many great mentors in my life, from coaches to colleagues. However in business, I prefer a sponsor versus a mentor.

A mentor is a person who can help me understand and navigate my career, goals, organization, etc. A mentor can also help me recognize my strengths, areas of development and carve out a plan for determining career goals. A mentor is especially impactful for those who are just starting out in their careers or for employees who are new to an organization. Mentors offer advice and guidance and support you in achieving desired career goals.

A sponsor is someone who often works in a management role or another influential role in your organization. This person openly advocates on behalf of the employee they are sponsoring. A sponsor helps connect you to career opportunities, often by recommending you for important assignments or helping you build relationships with other important people. A sponsor takes a vested interest in your career growth and recommends their protégé for promotions and other beneficial employment opportunities.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

Be unapologetically you!

BCY WAMS JGallagher

What are some of the largest obstacles you have faced as a result of MS?

For me, there were three big obstacles

1)    Telling my employer

This was a challenge because I dd not want people to think differently of me. I did not want to be judged or did not want people to think they could no longer rely on me or depend on me at work. However; I also knew I needed to, I knew I was going to need some support around my schedule and around doctors appointments etc. Not to mention; I rarely call in sick and I had been sick / hospitalized for more than a week and people were asking a lot of questions (my firm has a real family feel).

2)    Managing Costs

Having MS does not come without some financial burdens. I am fortunate that my husband and I have solid jobs, however; I made the decision to see some specialists that were not covered under my medical care. I take several vitamins (for example Vitamin D which is strongly encouraged for MS Patients) that are not covered under my medical plan. While we can afford for me to do this; we have had to sacrifice in other areas, certainly not costs you plan for in your 30’s.

3)    Navigating what my life was going to look like moving forward

Determining what my work schedule, nutrition, sleep and exercise would / will look like is a constant juggling act – some weeks I really nail it – other weeks I am a disaster. The challenge is, I’ll have weeks where I feel amazing and it gives you this false sense of hope that everything is “normal” and I’ll plan my next week under that impression…. And then all the sudden a few poor nights of sleep and a slip up on my nutrition and my “new normal” smacks me in the face 😉. As a typical A type personality, giving myself the permission to slow down has been really hard.

What was your reaction when you were first diagnosed with MS, compared to how you live with the disease now?

On April 18th a neurologist walked into my hospital room, a place I’d been hanging out for 4 days in severe pain (I was having a “Flare up” but had no idea).... but rather than popping by with the next set of instructions or test times, she lingered at my door. I’ll never forget her words.... ‘is your husband here?’ she asked looking at the empty chair beside my bed. My heart sank, I quickly replied ‘no’ and immediately regretted telling Chad (my husband) to wait until after dinner to visit me.

Thus; Before she could say anything else I stopped her and said, come in, I’ll assume by your doorway lingering its bad news, I can handle it. She sat down beside me in my hospital bed. I had no idea what she was about to tell me.... I was quickly processing my past few days. 3 sleepless nights and 5 days at the Lions gate hospital in North Vancouver, Neurological assessments twice daily, A few MRIs, a cerebral spinal fluid test, and more Ivs and needles than I care to remember.

She paused for a moment, put her hand on my knee, looked me directly in the eyes and said “JACQUELINE, your MRI results show a significant lesion on your C6 and white spots on your brain. You have multiple sclerosis.” I let it sink in for a brief moment..... I was fighting back tears of sadness and screams of anger ... the room went blurry and I can’t recall another word she said. I was hysterical. She hugged me and cried with me. She promised to come back in the morning before her flight to chat with Chad and I together, she wanted to ensure I understood and wanted to inform my partner of next steps and proper care instructions for my hospital release.

Chad arrived at the hospital and climbed in bed with me. I was devastated. I was angry, I was sad. I kept asking “why me? I am fit, young, healthy, exercise, eat well, and take care of myself!”

The first 6-8 weeks were awful, reality needs to sink in. Once my initial flare up was finally under control, I slowly started to feel like myself again.

How do you manage your symptoms and it what ways have you seen it help improve your everyday life?

I am currently prescription free. I mange my symptoms though nutrition, exercise, and sleep.

Oddly, for some reason when my initial multiple sclerosis “flare up” started to settle and I regained some movement in my legs and hands, I sent a text to my personal trainer at Equinox – Sean (I am a member and a part time Group Fitness Instructor at Equinox). At this point, I had just joined the Equinox team as a cycling instructor and as a Precision Run Instructor as well. Something in my body told me I knew I needed to move. For some people, it seemed odd that rather than staying in bed I was choosing fitness, but an active lifestyle has always been a huge part of my week and it seemed normal to me. It felt like the best step.

I met Sean at the club at West Georgia street the next day, not to workout; but rather chat. I fought back tears the entire conversation, but I knew I trusted him to help. Over the next few weeks and months, we created a plan. We changed the way I trained as my spine can no longer be under heavy load, Sean did his homework and put together the best functional fitness plan for us. In July of 2018, he even joined my multiple sclerosis bike ride team and fundraised with us as we rode through the Fraser Valley - talk about commitment to a client! (I was so proud of myself that I was able to bike that day!)

BCY WAMS JGallagher

Today, March of 2019, as I slowly approach the one-year mark of my diagnosis, I continue to see Sean twice a week. I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in. I’m not taking a prescription medication, I move everyday, my body fat is the lowest it’s been in years, my lean muscle mass is up and most importantly, I have energy! I’m still working full time, I continue to coach precision run and cycling at equinox. After being diagnosed with a chronic illness, one of the best decisions I made was to commit to my fitness, sleep and nutrition.

How do you feel about your future while living with MS?

I consider myself very fortunate, it is still early days for me and I am still learning; however, I genuinely believe, I will not always have MS – I believe we are at a time where there are huge advancements in research and we need to continue these.

I also believe because I have taken it upon myself to embrace some major lifestyle changes when it comes to nutrition and sleep that I am directly contributing to how I handle the disease and how I manage my body. I’ll be honest in saying, because of the support system I have in my life, I have an extremely positive attitude, and this goes a very long way in managing any disease. The MS Society has also welcomed me in with open arms. They invite me to all of the MS events and share all of the latest news. While I may not be able to attend everything, I am happy to know they are only a call or email away.

How has MS affected your work/family/relationships?

MS has really made me evaluate the relationships in my life. I no longer spend time with people or participate in things that don’t bring me energy! I am an energetic person and I give off a lot of energy, I expect that some of that should come back to me. Thus; if you’re a glass half full kind of person, or always complaining, I don’t spend time with you.

For the first few months, still in a lot of pain, many of the conversations I had with friends and colleagues and family were hollow. I was not able to focus, I was going through the motions. There is a certain darkness associated with being diagnosed with a ‘permanent’ disease. It’s the what if’s, the what’s nexts, the why mes etc.?

I remember when we told my family I had MS, we didn’t wait at all. I am very close with my family although we are literally spread out from coast to coast. Chad (my husband) looked at me in the hospital and said, how do you want to tell your family? I told him I would call my sister (she would still be awake given the time change to the East Coast and I felt I could share with her). I would ask her to pass the message along to my brother... (he is the emotional one in the family and I couldn’t handle the call). I did not have it in me to call my parents. Without me even asking, Chad dialed my parents’ number and quietly stepped out of the room… I knew they would be up as they been waiting for news given the number of days I had been in the hospital.

I can’t tell you how the conversation went as I was not privy to it by choice. What I can tell you is when my mom and dad phoned me the next day, my mom told me to thank Chad for his Calm delivery and caring demeanor delivering the news I had multiple sclerosis. He understood that people need processing time. I believe MS has in fact brought us all closer. My siblings and I have always been tight, but there is something about a disease that makes you evaluate what is important.

I also think it should never be under estimated the impact a disease has on your family – particularly your spouse. Not only did my husband have to help instantly care for me during my initial flare up, he also had a great deal to process. He went from having a wife that was active, energetic, worked hard and played hard to a wife that was in bed for 22 hours a day for 2 weeks! Rather than coming home after work to a wife that was ready to take the dog for a walk and ready to turn on some music and cook dinner, he came to a wife in a dark room, most often in tears.

What was it like to tell people about your diagnosis? Did you have a “coming out” moment with MS?

I’m an open book, I would not say I had a coming out party, but I was diagnosed in April and did my first MS Bike Ride in July. I had not planned on making an “announcement” but to spread awareness and ask for donations, I shared my story on social media with friends and colleagues. The response was over whelming and often brought me to tears everyday, people were so supportive, however; I also learned people are very unaware of what MS is. I had lots of comments like “you look fine” or had lots of comments about “will you continue to work”, “will you continue to play sports” etc…. Rather than getting frustrated by this, I saw it as an opportunity to educate people. I have MS – MS does not have me!

What do advancements in MS research mean to you?

Advancement in MS research (especially when it comes to nutrition) mean I’ll have a life whereby I may never need to take a prescription medication. Advancements mean freedom and hopefully we can find a cause, so we can be preventative versus having to be reactive.

What would a cure to MS mean to you? Please answer with:

One word: Autonomy

One sentence: A cure for MS would give me the autonomy I need to make decisions I want to make, without having to consider the impact the decisions will have on my health.


BCY WAMS Cindy ElliottCindy Elliot is a practice consultant at Providence Health Care, whose husband lives with MS.

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

I attended two years ago and enjoyed the event so much I wanted to get involved, to contribute. WAMS Gala Lunch about women in business and about raising money to end MS perfect combination of important things in my life….along with getting dressed up and going out for lunch with friends.

What role has the MS Society played in your life?

The fundraising the MS Society plays a big role in my life as the contribution the Society makes toward research brings us closer all the time to ending MS.

Why do you think events like WAMS are important?

My husband lives with MS so I know intimately the impact MS can have on a person. I also know how close we are to finding a way end or at least limit that impact. The last number of years has seen huge success in managing relapse remitting MS, this is encouraging and exciting. Therapies have become more tolerable and more successful. I want the same for people living with primary progressive MS, and we have made such progress. The money raised at WAMS goes directly to research related to ending primary progressive MS we must keep the momentum.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

Someone who can make decisions, is clear about their expectations and supports their people to be the best they can be.

How do you find work/life balance?

I have not found it yet, have you seen it? Some days/weeks/months are better than others. I thrive in chaos so sometimes the balance is just being okay in the imbalance. I started playing tennis a year ago and have found an oasis in that.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

There are so many to choose from but I’d like the chance to talk with Florence Nightingale. She was such an intelligent visionary woman who’s work had immediate impact and far reaching care reforming changes. Her impact formed what we know in healthcare today. What I would want to talk to her about is how she influenced people to listen, how she got her work done in a world where women did not hold influence. Her story and her contribution is remarkable.

BCY WAMS Cindy Elliott and Christine Sinclair

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

I’ve had a few mentors in my career, I’ve been fortunate. Having someone or a few people in your professional life that you trust and respect and can go to for guidance is like having a safe place to grow and learn, to push your own boundaries, and to learn from feedback. Mutual trust and respect is a must in a mentor relationship, both parties need to be invested in the relationship that is when real success is found. I think having a mentor is important for everyone, and if you are fortunate enough to find one who, don’t let go. I’ve been a leader in healthcare for a long time, I’ve mentored others - the benefit I continue to get from my mentors helps me pass along knowledge and understanding. We all win.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

Learn as much as you can and take opportunities when they present themselves. Be clear and strong, put your fears aside and don’t let the bastards grind you down. Find you allies and stay true to them, figure out the game and play smart.


BCY WAMS Jacqueline QuandtDr. Jacqueline Quandt is Assistant Professor at UBC and Associate Director of the UBC MS Research Program

What drew you to support the Women Against MS luncheon?

I have spent more than half of my life now working to end MS. I wish our efforts weren’t needed anymore, but not quite.

What role has the MS Society played in your life?

The MS Society of Canada has funded my research and my people for more than 20 years. I remain committed to researching the cause and cure for MS. I have never been more excited about the science and the advances so many of us are working on.

Why do you think events like WAMS are important?

For me, it’s an opportunity to make research priorities in MS something that we can all appreciate and help to evolve. This is a community that through whatever connection, is working to end MS. It takes a village, and this is our chance.

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

Integrity. It’s what keeps people (and cells, and tissues) on track. Fundamentally it’s at the heart of who we are, what we do, and the impact we will have.

How do you find work/life balance?

Still looking, but so far I love it all and really can’t complain.

If you had the opportunity to meet one successful female leader, who would you pick and why?

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. I visited Berlin this year for ECTRIMS and saw what was left of the Berlin Wall. It was nearly 29 years ago, living in Germany, that I met the then Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, just after the reunification of Germany. I had just chipped out my own piece of the Berlin Wall. Germany faces challenges today that the entire world is facing, and it is intriguing to watch Angela Merkel as a world leader. At a time when some leaders want to build walls…

Who has someone who has been a mentor in your life? Why do you think a mentor is important for women in business?

My PhD supervisor, Dr. Dorovini-Zis. Running a research laboratory is probably more like running a business than I could ever have imagined, and it’s something we don’t get training in. However, she taught me that integrity and perseverance will get you through anything and everything. She has always helped me get through the tough stuff.

What advice would you give to young women just starting out in their career?

Recently I heard a woman in business at a networking event pass on this quote from Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Surround yourself with people you admire for the qualities you feel matter most it’s a win/win.