One morning, a bit more than three years ago, I woke up and everything was blurry. It was even worse the next day. On the third day, I had double vision and couldn't walk down the hallway without bumping into the walls. After several hours in the ER getting all kinds of tests and scans, I was told I had multiple sclerosis. What?! I really didn't know what it was, but I found out fast!
What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease. Your immune system attacks the neurons in your brain and spinal cord, particularly the myelin—a sort of insulation that protects the neurons. During an MS flare-up, the affected neurons become like an electrical wire that's lost its protective coating and can end up short circuiting. When the neurons "short circuit," they interfere with the neurons' messages to the body. Practically, that means any part of your body can be affected: vision, mobility, concentration, digestion, and so on.
MS symptoms vary greatly from one person to the next, as does the severity and speed of its progression. Some people have to use a wheelchair all the time; others won't need assistance for 10 or 15 years, or maybe never.
MS affects about 100,000 Canadians (Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world), and its main challenges are the uncertainty and the variability of its progression and symptoms. Every time I feel something strange in my body, I ask myself if it's the MS. Or is it something else? For now, my MS symptoms include vision and concentration problems and fatigue.
One thing's for sure: since my first episode in 2014, I see every day that I'm able to work, run, ride, swim and walk as a gift.
Some good news
There is some good news in this somewhat dark story touching nearly 2.5 million people and their loved ones: there has been enormous progress in research and treatment in the past 15 years. Even if there is still no cure, there have been big steps made in discovering the cause of the illness and finding ways to fight it. Each and every year, researchers get closer to finding out what causes the illness, and drug treatments that more effectively slow its progress become available.
One of the reasons for this progress is undoubtedly the financial support provided by people like you. Donations to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada go towards two goals: providing support to MS sufferers and their families (I can attest that they do a great job!), and to research groups working towards solving the puzzle and making life better for people living with the disease.
September 9 will be another day I see as a gift, but it will be a pretty exceptional one! I will be running 125 kilometers (78 miles) at the Harricana trail run, an annual sporting event that also raises money to fight MS.
Thank you for helping our cause. Click the link to the right to make a donation.