‘It’s a legacy to my mother’

ALS Walk Strong will be held in New Waterford next month

Cape Breton Post - - Glace Bay / New Waterford & Area - BY JEREMY FRASER jeremy.fraser@cb­post.com

When Nancy Poirier found out her mother was di­ag­nosed with ALS she was dev­as­tated.

“When she was fi­nally di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease it was shock­ing to her and to the en­tire fam­ily,” said Poirier. “As a fam­ily, we ral­lied around her, we had a lot of laughs and a lot of tears.”

Theresa (Tessy) White was di­ag­nosed with amy­otrophic lat­eral sclero­sis or ALS on Dec. 22, 2009, but that didn’t stop her from liv­ing her life.

“She was very pos­i­tive through her whole jour­ney and she re­mained pos­i­tive, she kept every­one up,” said Poirier. “Any­body who ever came in con­tact with her, came to visit, they use to love com­ing to see her be­cause they loved how pos­i­tive she was — she was ex­tremely strong through­out it all.

“It’s a ter­mi­nal dis­ease but your at­ti­tude has a lot to be with it and be­ing sur­rounded by peo­ple you love and peo­ple who are pos­i­tive, it’s half the bat­tle.”

Poirier said her mother never missed a fam­ily event.

“My mother was al­ways the life of the party and when she couldn’t get to the party, the party came to her,” she said. “We al­ways had huge fam­ily sup­pers, there was al­ways a crowd at the house. As bad as it was, there were a lot of pos­i­tive things that came out of it.”

White died on Aug. 3, 2011, al­most two years after her di­ag­no­sis. She was 68.

“My mother was a nurse, so she knew what ALS was, I knew what ALS was,” said Poirier, who is also a nurse. “She knew prob­a­bly two months be­fore she was di­ag­nosed that she had ALS. She fig­ured that’s what she had.”

ALS is a spe­cific dis­ease that causes the death of neu­rons which con­trol vol­un­tary mus­cles. Nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that con­trol mus­cle move­ment die, rob­bing suf­fer­ers of the abil­ity to walk, talk, swal­low and even­tu­ally breathe.

The cause is not known in 90-95 per cent of cases; about five to 10 per cent of cases are in­her­ited. There is no cure, with life ex­pectancy be­tween two and five years after be­ing di­ag­nosed.

In Canada, roughly 2,500 to 3,000 peo­ple are liv­ing with ALS.

Since her mother’s pass­ing, Poirier hasn’t stopped be­ing in­volved in the ALS com­mu­nity.

For the past five years, she has or­ga­nized the an­nual ALS Walk Strong, a fundraiser to raise money for the ALS equip­ment loan pro­gram and re­search.

“Be­cause the ALS So­ci­ety is not funded by any level of govern­ment, the so­ci­ety is ba­si­cally run solely on do­na­tions raised through the an­nual walks or any vol­un­teer-driven event,” said Poirier.

This year’s walk will take place on June 3 in New Waterford. Reg­is­tra­tion will be­gin at 11 a.m. at the New Waterford fire hall, fol­lowed by the 20-minute walk, start­ing at noon, which will see par­tic­i­pants walk from the fire hall through Plum­mer Av­enue to Ma­hon Street, be­fore re­turn­ing to the fire hall.

“It’s a legacy to my mother,” said Poirier, when asked why she con­tin­ues to run the event. “It’s won­der­ful, es­pe­cially to some­one newly di­ag­nosed, to come to a walk and see every­one is there to sup­port them. It’s a great day.

“It’s im­por­tant to get the word out about the walk be­cause we’re walk­ing for those liv­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties to sup­port them, but we are also walk­ing for loved ones who are no longer with us,” she said.

Last year more than 200 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the event.

Poirier said it’s over­whelm­ing to see the amount of sup­port the fundraiser re­ceives each year and she en­cour­ages res­i­dents to take part in this year’s walk.

“It’s funny, I have peo­ple who call me and tell me they would like to go, but they don’t know be­cause they think it’s go­ing to be too dif­fi­cult,” said Poirier. “It’s not a sad event, it’s very happy, up­lift­ing, and you will en­joy it, and once peo­ple come they are happy they did.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the ALS Strong Walk, con­tact Poirier at 902-539-2511 or email nan­cyyvon­nep@hot­mail.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO/NANCY POIRIER

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SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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