Jenny Wolczuk cradles her newborn boy just as any mother. The only difference is she’s almost always sitting.
The 35-year-old Warfield resident was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about 10 years ago and never thought she’d become a mom while living with the inflammatory disease.
“I used to walk really fast, it was a really defining characteristic. Losing that, it really killed me,” she said, remembering a darker time. “Now I can’t walk at all, I can crawl and if I’m holding on to something, I can stand up.”
Wolczuk is among the many locals gearing up for the Scotia Bank MS Walk this Sunday. The annual event is the largest fundraiser for the MS Society of Canada’s West Kootenay Chapter, which is in its 11th year of operation with about 165 members.
The local chapter provides information, counselling and links people with resources offered by other agencies.
Though the support group has provided assistance with purchasing a ramp for her home and a pass to the pool, Wolczuk says she couldn’t get by without help from her mother and her husband, Glen King.
The couple moved to Annable about a year ago, where they settled in a home that has since been transformed to suit Wolczuk’s needs. King knocked out walls in the house to make it easier for her to get around and a ramp was built at the entrance.
“She handles the disease a lot better than I would – it’s inspiring,” he said. “I love her very much and I’m always beside her. I think from a capable person looking at a disabled person, a capable person takes a lot of things for granted.”
MS affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other. Almost any neurological symptom can occur with the disease, which often progresses to physical and cognitive disability.
“I always said to my mom growing up that, ‘I have a disease’ and she’d say, ‘You’re a hypochondriac,’” said Wolczuk. “When I found out it looks like I have MS, I got to tell everyone, ‘I told you so.’ But despite the fact that I was right, I was shattered.”
As a child, Wolczuk said she felt a little more tired than her peers and had strange pains that she couldn’t describe.
The woman who was raised in Prince George lived her life knowing something was wrong but didn’t let that hold her back from experiences like climbing Mount Fisher near Cranbrook in 2001.
During her first attack she had double vision for about a month and then it just went away, but when she later had difficulty walking without tripping, she knew something was up.
In 2002, she went to get checked out and a CAT scan and MRI later revealed she had the disease.
Though there is no cure for MS, Wolczuk is hopeful that one day she’ll walk again.
While she has taken some medication to stabilize her disease, she stopped taking drugs like steroids or copaxone when she was carrying her child McCoy, who is two months old now.
Together the family will take part in the event this weekend, which will be held in the Cominco Gym this year to avoid unpredictable weather.
Participants will lap the gym while enjoying live entertainment, including Nelson’s “Rhythm Ropers,” complimentary food and a kids’ zone.
Check in will start at 9:30 a.m. and the walk will officially start at 11 a.m., with entertainment from 10 a.m. until noon.
To find out more about MS or to register for the local walk and make a donation, visit mswalk.ca
To learn more about the local chapter, call Lonnie Facchina at 1-866-352-3997.