Allan Kristinson’s life changed overnight.
Kristinson went to bed feeling fine and awoke to the onset of what he would later learn was multiple sclerosis, a chronic, often disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord.
“I went to bed one night fine and woke up the next morning and my one eye was paralyzed, the right side of my body was heavy and numb, my speech was slurred and I couldn’t walk very well,” Kristinson said. “That was my first introduction to MS.”
Kristinson is now chapter manager of the MS Society of Canada and was in Fort Macleod on Thursday for the Cruisin’ for a Cause fund-raiser.
A&W Restaurants across the country donated $1 from the sale of every Teenburger or double Teenburger to the MS Society of Canada.
The money raised helps the society provide support for people in Fort Macleod who have MS, and also funds research for treatment and a cure.
“I’m always amazed by the community support,” Kristinson said.
MS is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Canada, with most people being diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40 years.
The unpredictable effects of MS last for the rest of the person’s life.
It took doctors a year to diagnose Kristinson with MS as they ruled out other diseases and problems.
Kristinson said the diagnosis was not as devastating as one might think
“It was actually a relief to finally find out,” Kristinson said. “My father-in-law had MS so I was very familiar with the disease. Of all the things I could get, I knew it wasn’t fatal and I knew there was a lot of encouraging things happening on the research side.”
Kristinson’s life changed with the diagnosis as he learned his limitations. He coped with the disease in part by leaving the high-pace, high-stress job as a service manager in the automotive industry.
“It takes a long time for people to realize where their limits are and what the signs are that you might be about to have an MS attack.”
Kristinson knows first-hand the importance of events such as the sixth annual Cruisin’ for a Cause fund-raiser in Fort Macleod featured a dunk tank, classic car rally, the Great Root Bear, raffles and music.
“An event like this is critical for people with MS, the MS Society, for raising money for the ongoing research to help improve the treatments for MS and ultimately find a cure,” Kristinson said.
Kristinson, who was diagnosed in 1996, has benefitted from one of the disease-modifying therapies.
“Those therapies, they’re in no way a cure,” Kristinson said. “They’re designed to slow the progression of the disease to hopefully one day be able to better treat it or buy me time and cure it.”
“I can attribute how well I’m doing today with my MS, 18 years later, to the disease-modifying therapy,” Kristinson said.
Research is ongoing, and focus recently shifted to the mildest form of MS to the more disabling form of the disease.
“Hopefully soon they’ll have treatments available for people with the more devastating form of the disease,” Kristinson said.
Cruisin’ for a Cause has raised more than $5-million over six years in support of the MS Society of Canada.
Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the world with three new cases diagnosed each day.
“Public awareness is probably one of the hardest things for us on an ongoing basis,” Kristinson said. “MS is not a terminal disease, it’s a devastating disease that effects over 100,000 Canadians.”