Guest post by Kirsten Mooney, MS Walk ambassador
Over the years, my mother and I switched roles – I became the caregiver. I remember doing laundry for the first time at age seven. I started working to help with the bills in my early teens. And I chose to stay in my hometown to attend university – all so that I could be there for her.
Thirty-eight years ago, my mother Brenda was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis right after her third pregnancy. As a young child, I can remember her skiing, walking in the forest with us, and just hanging out – those were the best times. As I got older, and my mom’s MS progressed, I became her sole source of physical and emotional support – my dad was gone and all my siblings had moved out, so I took it upon myself to care for her.
I cleaned the house, trimmed the trees, prepared meals, and helped keep track of her doctor’s appointments. Having so much responsibility at such an early age meant that I matured very quickly. When I was in high school, I would drop everything and leave parties to come home to my mom. My friends may not have understood it then, but that dedication made me who I am today and I’m better because of it.
As the years go by
Her original diagnosis transformed into secondary progressive MS. In order to stay mobile, she went from using a cane to a walker, and eventually started using a scooter or push wheelchair for longer distances. At 50, she became dependant on her wheelchair for mobility and it became a lot harder for me to move her in and out of it on my own.
I’ve had to set a few boundaries in terms of my role as her caregiver as a result. Now at 30, I’m still a key part of her caregiving team. I continue to help make decisions regarding her health, but I have my own family now and I need to balance my time between her, my husband and my three kids. It gets hard sometimes, but it comes with the territory of being a caregiver.
My mother is very motivated though – sometimes to the point of stubbornness – and she doesn’t let MS hold her back. She’s currently in university studying Human Relations and Spirituality. She goes out to more events at our church than I do, and is always trying new things. Although she’s determined to stay hopeful, she always has a “plan B” in the back of her mind in case her MS continue to progress and she needs to leave her home.
I’ve always looked up to my mom and I regularly try to put myself in her shoes – she’s in pain everyday but she rarely complains, she moves slowly, but she’s always looking ahead to the next community event or gathering. Her attitude and approach to life is so admirable to me.
A tradition from the very beginning
In 1991, when I was five years old, we started participating in MS Walk. Our family banded together, calling ourselves Dems D Brakes, (my mom’s maiden name is Brake). I can remember piling into our full sized Chevy van, painted brightly with our team name and pulling up to the crowd of people eager to start the day’s celebrations. We’ve kept this tradition going for 25 years because we see the outcome of what this event does for people affected by MS in our community. Over the years my mom’s received assistance with cleaning, snow removal and gardening, which has been a huge relief for both of us and I’m so grateful. I know first hand that the money is going towards helping people like my mom with what they really need at home – and more research so we can find a cure.
I started teaching Zumba in 2010 and I use my classes to raise money for our team. It turns out that doing something I really love for a cause that is so close to my heart is the most successful way to fundraise!
I can’t wait to celebrate our 25th year since we all first rolled out of that van for my mom. This day means so much to her, it means so much to me, and now it means so much to my kids– three generations walk so that someday grandma can walk again, too.
Kirsten is an #MSWalk ambassador. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and three children, enjoys Zumba, and is hopeful that a cure for MS will be found in her mother’s lifetime.
We will be sharing more stories from other #MSWalk ambassadors across Canada leading up to #MSWalk. Join Kirsten in the fight to end MS by registering for your local #MSWalk event today at mswalks.ca. Tell us in the comments: who do you walk for?