Canada’s rate of multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the world’s highest—roughly 77,000 live with the disease, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
Laurie McLean, the society’s Yellowknife facilitator, does her part and it was on display last weekend at the city’s MS Walk. Approximately 152 people participated and raised roughly $34,000, McLean estimates. The proceeds will go to the society’s efforts in MS research, advocacy, and programs and services.
Diagnosed with MS 21 years ago, McLean gained firsthand knowledge of what supports were available. They were limited and she could feel like there was nowhere to go. She carried that experience when she began her work in the community 12 years ago.
“I learned to deal with it myself and in doing that, I learned the stumbling blocks,” she said. “When my body was strong enough and my mind was strong enough, I thought, ‘well, I’m going to step forward.'”
A volunteer, she does what staff do in other divisions, with the support of the Alberta Chapter. McLean appreciates their help. “A lot of the time it’s just too much for one person to take on. Plus, I have MS so I have my good days and bad days,” she said.
She often acts as a liaison and an advocate. That could mean helping someone with low mobility get to a doctor’s appointment, or directing a person to an appropriate resource. If McLean ever cannot provide a service, she connects the person to someone who can.
There’s also a monthly support group meeting. “It’s nice to be able to talk to people who understand,” she said. “It’s different when you talk to somebody who’s a friend or family member. Yeah, they might think they understand. But they don’t understand the depths of it and the pain and the stupid little things.”
She said the initial diagnosis can be “very, very scary.” However, McLean said being a local, recognizable face helps develop trust. “When you talk to me, I’m not going to be telling your story to somebody else,” she said.
Having someone to talk to and attending meetings reveals shared experiences of living with MS.
“It’s great if you talk to other people because you go, ‘Wow they have that problem too. I thought it was just me,'” she said.
The Society is accepting volunteers and assistance with its various services. Anyone interested can contact Laurie McLean at email@example.com.