MS Month aims to raise awareness on disease symptoms and treatment

By Vanessa Ybarra
May 11, 2017 - 12:00pm Updated: May 12, 2017 - 11:25am

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — May is Multiple Sclerosis month.

Canada has the highest occurrence of the disease anywhere in the world, which attacks the central nervous system.

Health workers as well those affected by MS continue to spread awareness about the disease, in the hopes one day it will be preventable.

While there is no cure, research is getting close rand treatment is getting better.

Like most baristas, Mike O'Reilly relies on his hands to make perfectly crafted lattes at Caffe Motivo.

Close to ten years ago the coffee shop owner began to experience sporadic numbness in his hands.

"It moved down to my feet and then progressively got worse," said O'Reilly.

O'Reilley was diagnosed with early signs of Multiple Sclerosis, with the 33-year-old undergoing surgery as well changing his diet in an effort to control the numbing. 

"I haven't eaten red meat in three years," said O'Reilly.

According to the MS Society of Canada, 15 to 40-years-old are most likely to be diagnosed with the disease, with women three times more likely to fall victim.

"Ten to 12 years ago there was no medication for M.S. at all,” said O’Reilly. “It started with injections only, now you can just take a pill os there’s a yearly intravenous drip.There are so many new medications coming along."

According to the MS Society of Canada, research shows certain proteins in the brain lead to a decrease in mobility.

The society recently announced it, as well the non-profit organization Fast Forward, are contributing $800-thousand dollars to go towards further researching the findings, with the hope to develop a drug to stop the progression of the disease altogether.

While medication is available, it's receiving the medical services that's the problem. 

With the Royal Inland Hospital's MS Centre closing two years ago, O'Reilly and others have to travel to the UBC campus in Burnaby for checkups.

As a board member of Kamloops Interior M.S Society, O'Reilly and others have been advocating for the Kamloops MS Centre to re-open, with their goal step closer to becoming a reality.

“We continue to recruit for a neurologist with specialty training in MS,” said Kris Kristjanson, Health Service Director for Royal Inland Hospital. "While that is occurring, we’re looking at developing space at Royal Inland Hospital for an outreach service that would be located in the new Clinical Services Building.”

Interior Health says it hopes to have the MS Centre open in the next few months.

Still, with no cure, life for O'Reilly and others living with MS will never be the same.

For him, it's about perspective. 

“I speak for a lot of people with MS that have a lot worse symptoms and aren’t as lucky as me," added O'Reilly. "There are people that are in wheelchairs. It’s a day by day process and for the time being, I’m doing well.”

The annual 'Scotiabank MS Walk' in Kamloops is scheduled for Sunday, May 28 at Riverside Park.

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