In 1987/88 I was back at the University of Regina finishing my Education and Physics degrees while on an educational leave of absence. In order to supplement the family income I was working at Houston Pizza as a food prep specialist - pan scraper. I had just gone down to the basement to retrieve a case of pineapples for the pizzas where I heaved the case onto my shoulder. When I did this I experienced what can only be described a "shock" that ran down from the top of my left shoulder to my left hand, leaving my fingers with a tingly feeling. The sensation lasted the entire day and indeed for the next couple of weeks. After that time I went to a medi-clinic and saw a doctor. He examined me and declared that I had "tennis elbow" after which I decided to just ride it out.
After a couple more weeks of the pins and needles sensation I decided to visit my family doctor. He examined me for 15 or 20 minutes and explained that his first impression was that I had one of three different problems: a brain tumour, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis. He then went on to explain what the next steps were going to be.
1. CT-Scan to rule out the brain tumour possibility.
2. Blood Test to rule out Diabetes.
3. Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap, not the movie though) to determine if I had the enzymes typical of people with MS.
The tests were performed and MS was the final verdict. Now having had the disease for approximately 30 years (dating back to before I was diagnosed) I can say that the ups and downs have made for an interesting life journey.
Participation in all of the MS Bike Tours
I began participating in The MS Bike Tour twenty-nine years ago. It was the first year that the MS Society of Canada, Saskatchewan Division had offered the tour and though it was only in its infancy, it was a first-class event from the beginning. At that time, I lived Gull Lake working as a beginning teacher and set my fundraising goal quite high. I canvassed my friends and colleagues, my family and the community. Through the weeks leading up to the ride I was able to raise approximately $2 600! For my efforts I was awarded the Top Fundraiser award which turned out to be a framed tour poster which still hangs in my office at home. The ride was great and two or three people who were involved back then are still a part of the bike tour and the MS Society today.
In 1999, I was working in a position as Vice-Principal in an elementary school. I began what has come to be known as the MS Youth Bike Tour. This event has students raise money and learn about the effects of MS in order to take part in a ride from Douglas Park, all the way to the north-west corner of the city and back again. Along the way students have rest stops where food and drinks are offered to help keep them fueled for the day. Students are asked to raise a minimun of $35 and are taken out of the classroom so they can ride the 35 km of the ride. The number 35 is an important numer since it is known that approximately 3 500 people in Saskatchewn have Multiple Sclerosis.
Through the experience of the MS Society's Bike Tours, I have met thousands of cyclists who have made the commitment to ride the 150 or so km and raise hundreds and even thousands of dollars for research into the causes and a cure for MS and care for people with Multiple Sclerosis. The Tours have travelled to Fort San, Fort Qu'Appelle, Montmartre, Strasboug, 15-Wing Moose Jaw, Watrous, Wakamow Valley in Moose Jaw and now Avonlea. There has been wind, wind and more wind and there have been hot, scorching days and bitingly cold days (sometimes within 24 hours of each other.) Some tours have had the wind in our faces on Saturday followed by more wind in our faces the next day. Rarely, however, have we had the perfect tour where we have had the wind at our backs the first day followed by a wind at our backs the second day. When this happens we are over-joyed and life is good.
Having MS can be likened to this tour. Some days MS can be an almost insurmountable hurdle that seemingly cannot be overcome. Energy levels can be low if not non-existent and other symptoms can cause paralysis, partial or full blindness in one or both eyes or limbs may simply feel like lead appendages which can hurt to even move. When we encounter day-long winds in our faces we reach levels of exhaustion that come close to mirroring the fatigue people with MS experience. People with MS may also experience good days that have few or no symtoms that leave you with the feeling that you can do almost anything. On these days, a person with MS must be very cautious. Their inflated energy levels may simply be an illusion with a bad day lurking around the corner.
A couple of years (2017/18) I had to change my work situation due to my health. Because of the fatigue I felt at work, I had been forced to change my work load to 50%. This decision did not come lightly. But after coming home day after day and then sitting down to work on my school preparation and marking, I was left with absolutely no energy. Having worked for almost three complete semesters this way, I felt like I had reclaimed my life and could look forward to each day.
But as is often the case, I was forced to go on long-term disability. Daily hurdles and struggles had proven too great and my quality of life had suffered greatly. Today, without the burden of work, my life has begun to return to more enjoyable levels.
This year I ride with my wife Jacquie on the ride along with the rest of the Windriders team. We all look forward to this ride each year.
I’ve registered for the MS Bike Tour to fulfill a personal challenge, and to help the MS Society fund research, advocate for change, and help people with MS and their families. The MS Society is the only national voluntary organization in Canada that supports both MS research and services, and MS Bike has been a critical part of the MS Society’s fundraising efforts for almost 30 years. Proceeds from this event and others like it provide support and services to help those living with this disease, their families and caregivers. They also fund research with three primary goals: to find a cause and cure for MS, repair nervous system damage caused by MS and stop MS attacks. By supporting me, you too can make a difference in the life of someone with multiple sclerosis.
I am part of the MS Bike Tour because I believe in a future without multiple sclerosis – and with your help we can get there. Please give generously.