Guest post by Julia Nimilowich
Every year I look for ways to contribute even more behind the scenes for people like me who live with multiple sclerosis. I have served as an MS Ambassador, board chair, top fundraiser and spokesperson for the MS Walk. This year marks my ninth year, and it’s always so moving to speak to the crowd of walkers. I cannot describe the feeling of support and camaraderie I feel when I take the stage. Looking out to the group of thousands — friends, family and strangers all united against MS — is remarkable.
In a few months, I’ll be a mom. And for me, that means I’m going to do whatever I can so that future generations won’t have to face what I’ve faced. This year I’m not walking just for myself, but my own child, and the children who are too young to know about multiple sclerosis. I want to end MS so that they never have to.
My MS journey started in the spring of 2003, in a dance studio in Edmonton. I had just returned from my first contract as a production dancer on the MV Century for Celebrity Cruises and had begun training for my next contract. We started doing jumps, and mine ended with a crash to the floor. I laughed it off. But my instructor took it seriously and pressed me to seek medical advice.
After a series of tests and doctors visits, I was diagnosed with MS. I put everything on hold to focus on my health and try to understand what my diagnosis would mean for me. A million thoughts and questions ran through my mind. I couldn’t dance, but I wasn’t dying. From what I gathered, MS was this mysterious disease that came and went as it pleased — but I wouldn’t let it have control over me. I needed to do something to take control over my body, back from MS.
I kept noticing brochures in local businesses about the MS Walk, and that’s when it clicked. I started Team Julia in Edmonton’s MS Walk to march against the unknown. At first it was just seven or so friends and family. But we’ve grown, and we’ve been walking ever since.
Over the years, Team Julia has gained supporters and momentum, making it the top fundraising MS Walk team in all of Canada for many years. Together we have raised more than $500,000, appeared on the news, hosted top shelf gala fundraisers, had hamburgers named after us in a local restaurant and drummed up a great deal of awareness for MS.
Now at eight months pregnant, I’m not sure how far I will walk. But that’s not the point. Despite the challenges of living with MS, I continue to live my life. When I see the little girl in the MS Walk PSA pin on her bib and know she’s walking for her mom, I envision my own child growing up to follow in my footsteps as a fundraiser and advocate. But I hope my little boy or girl can find another cause to support – because although my future as a mother living with MS is clouded with uncertainty, I have every confidence that there will be cure in my lifetime.
Julia is an MS Ambassador with the MS Society of Canada.