Guest post by Lori, MS Walk ambassador
We had just moved to Calgary in 2004 – I had always called Winnipeg home, so moving to a new city was stressful. On top of that, I was raising my two-year-old son Ethan. My husband Ryan was working full-time and studying for a professional designation, which kept him very busy, and I worked full time as well. We spent our free time taking care of Ethan, and running him to swimming and skating lessons. We were also in the process of building our first house. They say that’s when MS symptoms come out, when you’re stressed. I lost my vision very quickly over the span of a couple days, first peripheral and then my entire left eye went dark. I immediately sought out medical help and was given steroids to treat the symptoms. At this point, I was told that multiple sclerosis was a possibility, but this symptom alone wasn’t enough for a diagnosis. I had an MRI nine months later and the results were good – no lesions. However, I was told that there was still a 25 percent chance that I would be diagnosed with MS in the next 10 years.
Two years later, we made the decision to move back to Winnipeg because we spent a lot of time travelling home. The possibility of being diagnosed with MS was not the main reason for returning, but it certainly was in the back of our minds. We knew we would need the support of family and friends if the diagnosis came. I was fairly symptom-free during the first few years back at home, other than the permanent damage to my left eye. I had two more MRI’s, one in 2011 and the other in 2012. Both showed lesions in spots that were typical for MS. After the second MRI, my new doctor felt confident that I was indeed dealing with relapsing-remitting MS. I told him he was wrong… I hoped he was wrong. I wasn’t put on a treatment right away because my doctor said that if I wasn’t having symptoms, there was nothing to treat. Almost exactly one year later, I had another relapse. This time I lost feeling on my left side from my ribcage to my toes. It never impeded my function and from the outside no one could tell, but it didn’t feel great for me.
After my relapse in 2012, I started taking Copaxone which is a daily injectable. Since I’ve been on this medication, I’ve been fairly symptom free, other than blindness in my left eye and a numb leg when I get stressed or tired. I do get tired and have headaches as well, but it’s sometimes hard to tell if this is MS related, or just ‘mom of three’ related. My husband and I now have three kids to look after. All are in different activities – the boys play hockey and our daughter figure skates. Our evenings are mostly spent chauffeuring our kids around town to their activities. In the summer, we take a little more time to relax and enjoy lots of summer and swimming activities, especially after our tough Winnipeg winters. I’m a small business owner and publish community centre newsletters for many centres around the city. I co-ordinate the content, design, and printing, and do advertising sales as well. It’s not quite full time, which is great, and because I work from home, I have flexibility if I have a doctor’s appointment or if the kids are sick.
At this point, I’m contemplating changing my treatment because there are many great new medications for MS on the market. It’s very difficult to decide on which one, because all the treatments come with various side effects. I’m leery to start a different treatment because our family is so active and I worry that some of the side effects could affect this. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be choosing daily injections over taking a pill, I would never have believed them. However, I have a level of comfort knowing that if my current treatment stops working, there are many other great options out there thanks to all the research that is being done.
I’m so grateful that my treatment seems to be working. As of my last MRI in 2015, no new lesions were found. That’s all I can hope for at this point. I thank the MS Society for all that they do to encourage research, and I especially thank the dedicated MS researchers who are helping my quality of life.
Five years ago, we participated in our first MS Walk. Participating makes us feel like we are contributing and can make a difference. We put together a large team made up of friends and family and did incredibly well, even garnering the “Rookie Team of the Year” award. We often plan events such as bingo bowls and garage sales, and our community has been a great support to our team. Every year, more and more people join our team, and we continue to do our share in raising funds for the MS Society. We always say that raising money for MS gives us hope that there will be a cure. We absolutely stand behind that statement.
Our team name is Walk the Walk – I wanted a generic name so anyone would feel welcome and comfortable joining. We’re really looking forward to this year’s MS Walk and crossing our fingers for warm weather. Rain or shine, we’ll be out showing our support to all Canadians affected by MS from coast to coast. Want to help those affected by MS? Consider “walking the walk” and joining thousands of others in MS Walks across Canada. My team will be walking in Winnipeg. Come meet us at The Forks on Sunday, May 7th!