Friday, September 7, 2018

Walk for MS to raise a mom's spirits

Jeff Wishart 

Toni Lucas - Jeff Wishart, a carpenter from Oakland Manitoba, was hiking along Highway 3 close to Pincher Creek on Friday, August 31. The reason for his journey was to cheer up his mom who has Multiple Sclerosis and to raise awareness. He started his quest on July 4, and hopes to make it to the west coast. "I had to make her be happy." Wishart feels his walk gives her something other than her disease to focus on. "She is proud but then she is worried too. But it is better than her stewing on this disease. Mom still worries, but at least it isn't about herself."

MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system which can deteriorate the brain, and the spinal cord. the disease is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently, there is no cure. His mother Carole has been trying to keep her spirits up, according to her son, but he says, "She has the slow, remission one that's in her brain." People with this form of MS experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but also experience relapses with or without recovery. Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 365 Canadians have MS.

Wishart has been camping in fields during his journey, and texting family and friends back home. He had eaten and shared his story at a restaurant and the owner said if it did rain, he should seek shelter under the veranda. "About two in the morning, it started raining and hailing on me. So I ran back. But that is the only one time I got rained on. I have been very fortunate with the weather." He estimates he generally walks 33 to 35 km per day.

He has met people who have met him along his journey who have gone out of their way to make sure he has food or drink and thanked him for doing something extra for this cause outside of the regular scheduled late spring early summer time frame for MS fundraisers. A lot of people have shared stories with him about family friends or they themselves having MS. He has been keeping a diary. "It is quite the tale. There have been too many funny things."

He has no GoFundMe page, or other forms of social media during his journey for the public to check his progress on. "This is really just for mom." He is not taking donations but has accepted kindnesses from strangers along the way. He has accepted gifts of meals and places to sleep, as well as people have offered to donate to the cause of MS in his or his mother's name. "I don't think that really matters. As long as they are donating money to MS, to the cause, it doesn't matter whose name it is in."

He was concerned about the fire zones in British Columbia. "I am not going to be dumb about it. If they stop me and tell me not to go, I'm not going to go." He does see that if that does happen it may permanently conclude his mission, but at least he would have tried.

"In my mind, if everything goes perfectly, I will make it. Then, I would like someone to fly me from Victoria to Nova Scotia, and I would like to walk home that way in the spring. That is how I would like this to end. It would be the ideal situation." His attitude was, "If you are going to walk halfway across the country, you may as well walk all the way across."

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