Amanda Cundliffe knew something was wrong when she started to experience tingling and numbness in her forearms and her back a few years ago. The sensations never went away like they would if your hand falls asleep. It had to be something more serious. Of course, she was hoping that it wasn’t multiple sclerosis, but it was. She’s just thankful that the diagnosis was relatively quick, after a doctor’s appointment and an MRI scan.
“A lot of people spend months and months trying to figure out what's causing the weird sensations or the issues that they might be experiencing. For me, it was about six weeks from my first doctor's visit to when they knew what was happening from that end of things,” she said.
That was about four years ago when she was 30. MS was actually already on her radar because she previously had a condition called optic neuritis, a few years before that. Its cause isn’t really known, but she said that it's often considered a precursor for MS with four out of 10 people afflicted with the inflammation of the optic nerve later going on to develop MS.
She always had that statistic in the back of her mind, which is why she took that numbness and those weird, tingling, sensations in her arms and back more seriously.
“Maybe the average person might just brush it off as nothing. I had an idea that maybe this is more than just a weird sensation.”
Following her diagnosis, more testing determined that she also had active lesions. The disease was actively attacking parts of her brain so she was immediately put on a drug therapy plan to hopefully prevent further damage from happening.
It worked, she said, but it was further complicated by her attempts to start a family with her husband. They had been trying for a few years and weren’t interested in giving up the challenge.
This meant that she was restricted to a certain treatment that was safe during pregnancy. They juggled everything nicely: the couple now has a toddler to keep them busy and active.
“He's a pretty cute little man and keeps us very, very on the go. It's good for me and for my husband. It just forces you to keep moving, and stay active, when sometimes you would rather not be, but a one-year-old doesn't take no for an answer. So you just keep rolling with it.”
Cundliffe has since been moved to a different drug treatment plan and has had no further relapses of her symptoms.
MS isn’t all about drug treatments and self-care efforts like proper exercise, good nutrition and getting enough sleep though. She had her family and friends to help hold her up but she needed more after she learned to accept this new facet to her life.
“When I was initially diagnosed, that's what I had to try to keep in the back of my mind: you can handle this, you can't change it, it is what it is, so let's learn how to move forward with it. That's when I reached out to the MS Society because at that point I needed to know more about it. I wanted to understand what kind of resources were there, understand what the disease looks like as you progressed through life, how the future might look for me. They were able to provide some really good resources.”
She added that her initial treatment was an injection every day. She really didn't like the thought of having to give herself a needle every day.
“That's when I started working with the MS Society to raise money to find a cure because we need a cure.”
That’s why the MS Society is hosting its annual MS Walk in St. Albert and more than a dozen other communities across the country on Sunday morning. Nearly 400 participants are already registered in the 2K or 5K walk with funds raised going to support innovative research into the cause, treatment and cure of MS as well as help provide valuable services, programs and advocacy for Canadians affected by the disease. Some of the funds are dedicated to stay in this community to help people with MS like Cundliffe to get counselling, referrals and equipment.
More information is available online at mswalks.ca.