Cycling for Canada's disease

Nathan Liewicki
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Cyclists leave the starting line in Wakamow Valley for Sunday's K+S MS Bike event. More than 170 cyclists completed the 50-kilometre course, which was one of a handful of cycling distances held over the weekend in support of the Saskatchewan division of the MS Society. 

MS Bike ride raises close to $200,000

Dennis Patterson was brushing his teeth one morning when numbness struck the left half of his face and tongue.

“I didn’t know if I was having a stroke, or what,” Patterson said of the strange lack of feeling.

That incident occurred in 2000 when Patterson was in Germany, serving in the air force.

He went to see a dentist who explained to him that the numbness had nothing to do with his teeth. The dentist called a neurologist and Patterson was told to go to the hospital.

It was there he was diagnosed with multiples sclerosis (MS).

Fourteen years later, Patterson says he still deals with MS on an almost daily basis, but admits he’s very fortunate.

“I was diagnosed very quickly and got on the medications that I needed to be on and got the counseling that I need,” he said. “Unfortunately that doesn't happen a lot in Saskatchewan.”

He added that quicker MS diagnoses are needed in the province.

It’s one of the reasons Patterson is a volunteer on Southern Saskatchewan’s K+S MS Bike ride committee, which was based out of Wakamow Valley this past weekend.

More than 170 cyclists raised took part in one of three cycling routes on Saturday – 72, 100, or 150 kilometres – and the 50-km loop on Sunday morning.

This year’s ride marked the 25th anniversary of the first MS Bike event in Southern Saskatchewan, which has not only brought awareness, but also raised loads of money for the MS Society.

“Last night we announced $193,000 raised to date for this tour,” said Erin Kuan, president of the Saskatchewan division of the MS Society of Canada.

“Over 25 years has produced thousands of people that have volunteered and participated, and millions of dollars that have been raised.”

Over 100,000 Canadians live with MS. Of those, Kuan told the Times-Herald that more than 3,500 Saskatchewanians are known to have the central nervous system-attacking disease.

According to the MS Society, one in two Canadians knows someone who lives with the disease.

“MS is Canada’s disease,” she said. “I think the best word to describe multiple sclerosis is unpredictable. It affects everyone very differently.”

Symptoms range from numbness and tingling in the extremities to temporary paralysis, blindness, fatigue and cognitive impairment.

“Once you're diagnosed, the only thing that you have left is symptom management,” said Patterson. “You've got to treat symptoms individually. If you don't it has a snowball effect.”

If one symptom can be treated, it might lead to others being quelled. If not, a person’s MS symptoms have the potential to mount and become very debilitating.

Patterson said it’s important to be aware of his limitations. One of his limitations is not being able to participate in the MS Bike ride, but as he’s still linked to the ride through his volunteer position.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: MS Society of Canada, Saskatchewan division, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Canada, Southern Saskatchewan, Germany Saskatchewan Wakamow Valley

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