Strides being made in fight against MS
Pat and Gerry Wilson remember the phone call they received 11 years ago, informing them that their 24-year-old son was going into a Northern B.C. hospital for steroid treatment after losing sight in his eye.
“He had virtually gone blind,” Gerry said. “He had to receive a three-day treatment in one eye.”
After being referred to St. Paul’s Hospital closer to home in Surrey for further tests, Pat’s maternal instinct kicked in and she knew she had to be there with her son.
“I had this inkling that this was bigger than what we thought it would be,” she recalled.
She was right.
Her son was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. The damage to the nerve cells disrupts the nervous system’s ability to communicate, resulting in a range of symptoms.
“In the very beginning, we were very scared of what the future held,” Pat said.
“To us, it was much worse than we knew. So you quickly arm yourself with as much information as you can.”
After researching MS, Pat and Gerry discovered that losing vision is a very common first symptom.
They also found that while MS can be debilitating, there is a spectrum, ranging from benign – the least serious form of the disease – to the most severe form, progressive.
“That’s what we all think of,” Pat said.
“You think of wheelchairs and ‘oh my God, what does this mean?’”
The shock of the diagnosis was a lot for their son to process, with Pat noting that he experienced a period of denial.
“He flat out told us, ‘we’re not going to talk about MS, the only time is when I’m going to bring it up,’” she said, noting that even now he asks that his name not be published.
“At the time, it was devastating. We were doing so much research and finding out information and we couldn’t share it with him.”
Then a turning point came in 2006.
Pat and Gerry’s daughter, Jill, was participating in the Vancouver Scenic City MS Bike Tour when she was caught on a television camera wearing a shirt that stated she was riding for her brother.
“He called to ask whether that was his sister wearing that shirt,” Pat said. “After that, it was different. He was really touched and happy for the support.”
Knowing the difference support can make for someone struggling with a MS diagnosis, Pat and Gerry have been making strides – literally and figuratively – in raising awareness and support.
This year’s May 4 Scotia Bank MS Walk in White Rock at Bayview Park marks nine years the family has been involved – with a steady stream of support from friends and extended family.
Gerry, who has served as a committee member for the walk’s board for all nine years, said that the annual event brings families together and builds a network of support.
So far, the Wilsons have raised more than $62,000 for the MS Society of Canada.
“It’s a fun day and we get to know others with MS,” he said. “Pat and I have family and friends that come out and help with the walk year after year. It provides a lot of support.”
For more information on the national or the White Rock event, which features three-, five- and 6-½-half-km routes, visit www.mswalks.ca