Multiple sclerosis needs multiple solutions, like Quesnel MS Walk

The public meets Quesnel's MS Monster at the annual MS Walk at Spirit Square. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Care aid and Multiple Sclerosis advocate Shanelle MacGregor stands with Quesnel's MS Monster at Spirit Square during the annual MS Walk. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
One of Quesnel's leading advocates and volunteers for the cause of Multiple Sclerosis is Sandy Koett. (Frank Peebles photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complicated disease with diverse symptoms and outcomes. A fundraiser to battle MS has to rise to this challenge and be many things at once, said some dedicated Quesnel volunteers who held their annual Walk For MS at Spirit Square to begin June. Of course, it was much more than a walk, since they are fighting the assortment that makes up this nasty affliction. There were baskets of donated items up for silent auction, a Bliss Burgers barbecue, there was a pre-event at Save-On-Foods the week before, and it is leading to Burgers For MS at A&W on Aug. 3.

There was a festival atmosphere and also a diversity of supporters at the MS Walk, from those who are living with its many forms to caregivers to family members to other supporters who know people with it. And who doesn’t, really? When one takes stock of the people in your life, it isn’t hard to discover a personal connection.

“Canada has one of the highest levels of diagnoses in the world; it’s actually called Canada’s disease,” said Shanelle MacGregor, a Quesnel care aid. “The lady I work for is a huge part of my life, and my kids’ life, and there are just so many stories like hers. When we are out raising funds and awareness, so many people come up to us and say they have a family member with MS, they have a friend with MS. Every time. Every time.”

The Quesnel MS Self-Help Group meets at City Hall (Baker Creek Enhancement Room) the first Thursday of every month, from 12:30-2 p.m. Donna Crosina is the chair, and she was prancing around at the MS Walk in an inflatable dinosaur costume. This theme took hold when one of the group’s most active members, Sandy Koett, once made the observation that “MS is a monster” and the phrase stuck.

“There are a lot of people who don’t want people to know, or they can’t come out, so we don’t really even know how many people in the Quesnel area have MS,” said Koett. “Three members of our group have passed away in the last five years, so I’m doing this for them.”

Going around the small crowd at the MS Walk, Koett and Crosina list off the regulars who attend the meetings. They spot a teacher, a nurse, an accountant, a sheet metal worker, a pellet plant worker, a millworker, a teacher, and a new person just joined the group the previous Thursday, so the list keeps growing.

Koett was forced into a wheelchair by MS, but that doesn’t stop her from being aggressive about awareness and fundraising. She knows she has more physical abilities to do this work than many, and she has a motivated mind to help.

“I want people to know there is still no cure, and it is so common,” Koett said. “I have two sisters with it. My dad had MS. Just because someone looks okay doesn’t mean they are. And I’m still learning.”

Koett’s husband Tony has been involved right alongside, and said the Quesnel area has been, in his experience, very receptive to the MS message. “We’re a little more laid back in the Cariboo. People think about it, they realize who they know, or just understand the problem, and they want to help. I’ve found, over the years, that businesses are very generous, they find ways to participate in ways they can, and it sure says a lot about community.”

When the entire community is represented by a disease as widespread and complicated as MS, it isn’t hard to fathom why.

According to the government of Canada, “Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. The immune system attacks myelin (protective covering of the nerves) in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, which disrupts communication between the central nervous system and the rest of the body.

“It is estimated that more than 77,000 Canadians aged 20 years and older live with MS and that almost three quarters are women.”

For some, it causes subtle symptoms like easily tripping or dropping things, while others have to resort to walking aids or wheelchairs, contorted muscles that confine people to bed, and in some it is fatal. For almost all sufferers, it brings various levels of pain.

The MS Society of Canada is the country’s leading support agency, and it is to them that local fundraising goes, for patient supports and scientific research. Local MS information can be obtained with an email to:

READ MORE: Fundraising underway for annual MS Walk in Quesnel

READ MORE: Join the Quesnel MS Self-Help Group for the 7th annual MS Walk this weekend

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