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Stepping up for multiple sclerosis

Walk to raise awareness of disease
Chris Bolster

Participants in the annual Powell River Scotiabank Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Walk will be lacing up their walking shoes to make their mark against MS. For Heather Dyble, though, it is personal.

This year Heather, who was diagnosed with MS 27 years ago, has decided she’s going to challenge herself. “My plan is to walk the five kilometres without pushing a wheelchair or using my two canes,” she said.

Heather has been working out regularly since the fall at Powell River Recreation Complex gym, building her strength and stamina. She has regular trail rides at Powell River Therapeutic Riding Association to help develop her balance.

Heather, who has participated in the walk more than 20 times, would always push her wheelchair along the route. “For balance,” she said. “Never to ride on.”

She and her husband Dan started the Powell River walk after they moved here in 2005. Since then they have watched the numbers of participants in the yearly walk fluctuate with some years as many as 55 participants.

“The idea of the walk for me is to raise awareness,” said Dan. “I’d just like to see people out there walking. It’s a fun Sunday morning with friends and family.”

MS Society of Canada estimates that between 50,000 to 75,000 people have the chronic autoimmune disease nationally. It affects the central nervous system by gradually destroying the myelin sheath of nerve cells, the part which helps electrical impulses pass. With interference to these pathways, muscular weakness, loss of coordination, speech and eyesight results. MS is a debilitating collection of symptoms often hard to recognize.

“As many people as there are with MS, “everyone’s experience with it is different,” said Heather.

Doctors do not know what causes the disease, though they have developed some drug treatments to fight it in its early stages.

Heather and Dan have tried many approaches to help her fight the disease, from diets to homeopathy and keeping active. Positivity has been key in Heather’s fight.

“I hold on to what I’m doing because I believe in it,” she said. “I firmly believe that one day I will be healed.”

The walk will start at 9:30 am on Sunday, April 7, outside city hall on Duncan Street. Registration begins at 9 am and participants have the option of walking a five-kilometre or one-kilometre course. Both courses were chosen for their lack of hills.

Money raised from the walk will go toward research and paying for programs and services. Ten per cent of the total money raised by participants in the local MS self-help group will stay in Powell River.

Although participants can simply show up on the day of the walk, Brenda Jebsen, a provincial spokesperson for the national society, said that pre-registering for the event is preferable as organizers will provide T-shirts for those who raise more than $125. “The money we raise,” said Jebsen, “helps us fulfill our mission of research and providing programs.” Coffee, juice and water will be provided for participants along the course.

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