For most people, life can seem pretty normal until you – or a loved one – get struck with a debilitating disease.
That’s the way it is for Stettler resident Philippa Brysiuk, who was diagnosed with mulitple sclerosis in February 2002 and has struggled since then with a determined heart to cope in the best way she can.
“Unfortunately there are too many of us in the community and around the world who have MS,” said Brysiuk.
“It’s not as scary as some diseases, but not knowing can scare anyone,”
She and her co-workers at Scotiabank invite the community to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada at a hot dog lunch this Friday at the bank from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of Multiple Sclerosis Month in May.
Scotiabank will match all funds raised.
“MS has slowed me down considerably as I don’t have the energy I used to have. It also affects my balance, my sight, my ability to walk like a “normal” person and I have some speech and memory problems,” said Brysiuk.
“I still do most of the activities I used to because I am too stubborn to give in. I feel if I ignore the problems, they aren’t there.”
“Sometimes reality comes crashing in when I fall or when I can’t get out of my chair or my bed but in between I pretend that I am healthy.”
The life-changing story actually started in the summer of 2001 as she reflects on the last nine years.
“In August 2001, the day I had surgery to remove a tumor, I lost the sight in my left eye which eventually returned, and then a month later my right hand fell asleep and it still hasn’t woken up.
“My doctors suspected MS so I was sent for an MRI and I was quickly diagnosed.
“Before the diagnosis, I thought for sure I had either ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) which had just claimed my mother-in-law or a brain tumor.”
Brysiuk goes on to tell that the diagnosis of MS came almost as a relief.
“When they told me it was MS, I did the beginning of a lot of research and I was relieved.
“I was going to be able to watch my children grow up, graduate, get married and hopefully I would hold grandchildren. “
The diagnosis was followed by the introduction of a long running therapy, which still continues today.
“I was placed on a drug therapy program within months where I inject myself three times per week and that has been able to reduce the number of attacks I experience,” Brysiuk said.
“I also attend physiotherapy weekly to improve my mobility.
“My family has been extremely supportive over the years.”
Due to her inability to take care of all the housework, some of the chores had to be shared or transferred.
“My husband has gotten very good at laundry and vacuuming which I often need help with,” she said.
“My children were all teenagers when I was diagnosed so there was a lot of fear and denial but over the years, time and knowledge have helped ease their fears.”
“Now as adults they help me raise money and awareness for the MS Society.”
Philippa Brysiuk also has a few words for those who know little about the ailment and those who might be willing to help.
“Everyone can do their part for those suffering from MS,” she says.
“First and foremost, we are still people. Please don’t ignore us or pity us. We are living our lives as best we can.
“We may have a different future than we planned, we may be in a wheelchair, use a walker or a cane but most of us are still vital parts of our families and the community.”
She also has an appeal to all to support MS research.
“Central Alberta MS Society supports those of us in the area (both those of us with MS and their families) and supports research on the national level.
“Many of us in Stettler and the area are raising funds for the MS walk on May 30.
“When you see me staggering down the street (because I’m too proud to use my walker in Stettler) remember, I’m not drunk, I have MS.”
Did you know that:
• Over 11,000 Albertans and between 55,000 and 75,000 Canadians live with MS.
• Canadians have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world.
• Every day, three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS.
• Women are more than three times as likely to develop MS as men.
• MS can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis.
Funds raised for the MS Society of Canada are designated for research and various services to support MS sufferers, families, caregivers, and people awaiting a diagnosis of MS.