Four years ago, when she was pregnant with her second child, Jennifer Crepeault was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Depending on the day, the 28-year-old's condition affects her differently.
Some days she'll have very few symptoms, but on others she'll have difficulty gripping a coffee cup or will be completely numb on one side.
“It helps when you have support,” Jennifer said. “I wouldn't be able to do this by myself. The days I don't feel well, family members come and help me with my kids.”
MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. As in Jennifer's case, symptoms occur in attacks; however, in some people, the condition is degenerative, with symptoms slowing getting worse over time.
Jennifer, along with her husband, Dan, four-year-old son, Brayden, five-year-old daughter, Rheanna, and several more extended family members, was one of about 140 people who participated in the local MS Walk May 27.
The Crepeaults managed to raise more than $1,000 for the MS Society of Canada. The funds go toward MS research as well as services for those with the condition.
Jennifer said one of her aunts also has MS, and the local MS Society branch helped her pay for wheelchairs and lifts for her home.
“One day, that might be me that needs that little extra help,” she said. “If I can help out now while I can, and help out other people, maybe one day they'll help out me.”
Dan said it has been difficult to watch his wife struggle.
“I know she wants to (do things), but she just can't,” he said. “It's been hard to see, especially at her age, because she got it so young. You have your whole life to look forward to, and then something comes along, and it kind of steers you in a different path. I'm proud of the way she's fighting and staying active.”
Laurel Ireland, chair of the Sudbury chapter of the MS Society of Canada, said she had high hopes for the event to raise much-needed funds. The final tally, according to the MS Society, was $25,922.
“We're very proud of our community,” she said. “With all of the charities I've worked with over the years, Sudburians always have very deep pockets.”
Ireland, whose own sister passed away a few years ago from MS, said she's always touched to see many family members of those with the condition at the walk.
“You'll see their family members with them rallying around them,” she said. “MS truly is a family disease. If they don't have someone to help them out, then there's a problem, because they do need help.”
Ireland said she's encouraged to see a lot of great MS research underway.
The MS Society of Canada and its United States counterpart have funded research into liberation therapy, a controversial new MS treatment where angioplasty is used to improve blood flow in certain veins.
The results of this research are due to be released in about a month, Ireland said.
The society is also involved in funding research for a new type of oral medication which may slow the progress of the disease, Ireland said.
Sue Leblanc, who has lived with MS for 32 years, didn't participate in the walk itself because she has a difficult time walking long distances.
However, she helped to prepare a lunch for participants because she's grateful for their support.
Staying positive is the only way to deal with having MS, she said.
“You go to bed at night, and maybe in the morning you can't get up or you can't use your hands, or you lose your sight,” Leblanc said.
“It's a surprise every day. I've learned to get up in the morning and say 'I'm thankful I can walk, and it's going to be a good day.' You've got to look at the bright side of everything or you just get so down you can't get back up.”
Across the province, the MS Walk raised $4.8 million. More than 1,000 people laced up for the annual MS Walk in Belleville, Brockville, Kingston-Napanee, North Bay, Sudbury and Timmins to raise more than $200,000 for individuals living with multiple sclerosis.
"I walk in honour of my sister, Mary, who is my best friend and has MS," Tina Bisante, a top fundraiser and team captain, said in a provincial news release.
"Since 2009, I have tried to raise awareness and funds to support the MS Society, who in turn provide services and much-needed research that will ultimately lead to a cure."
Growing from four members in 2009 to 25 members in 2012, her team raised more than $16,000 at this year's MS Walk.
"I want to help put an end to MS so no other families will have to go through what those living with MS have to endure," Tina continues.
For more information about the services provided by the local branch of the MS Society, phone 705-566-9299.
For a list of Sudbury's top online and team fundraiser, visit www.mssoc.convio.net.
Posted by Arron Pickard