When Tammy “Mimi” Duchesne went camping with her husband JP on a long weekend in the summer of 2005, she noticed that her left eye was seeing double. A few weeks later, while out on a bike ride, her eyesight became blurry.
Being a nurse, Mimi knew she had to see a doctor about her symptoms. And while she had a feeling something was awry, she wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis she received a year later: multiple sclerosis (MS).
JP was at work and waiting for Mimi to pick him up. When she did, she couldn’t hold back her devastation.
“We were just parked on the street and then she said the doctor said it could be MS,” he recalls. “She would rarely cry – I think it was the only time I’d seen her cry at that point in time – but she just broke down.”
Mimi got her final and official diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS in 2010 (she has now progressed to secondary-progressive).
The next few years for Mimi would prove to be tough as her symptoms progressed fairly quickly.
Being the outdoorsy couple they were, Mimi and JP tried as much as they could to travel but eventually walking became more challenging, as well as her co-ordination and dexterity. Soon enough, Mimi wasn’t able to walk at all or use her arms and legs and eventually confined her to a wheelchair. She also lost the ability to speak properly.
Thus began a new life chapter for Mimi and JP, the couple from Echo Bay, Ont. – one that brought many ups and downs, changing Mimi forever. It also became a source of inspiration for JP who detailed Mimi’s journey in a new children’s book called Why Mimi Got a Puppy.
The book details a special moment in the couple’s life when JP gifted Mimi with a new puppy named Phoenix for her 40th birthday last year. Phoenix would prove to be a source of happiness and therapy for Mimi, helping both her and JP in their toughest of days.
The book is also interactive in the sense that it comes with QR codes. By scanning the codes with your phone, the reader is able to see real videos of Mimi in a day in her life – from some of JP and Mimi’s most beloved memories on trips to the first time Mimi met Phoenix.
And while each MS patient’s experience with the disease is different, JP hopes readers young and old alike will get a better understanding of the disease. He also hopes to inspire others in not taking life for granted.
“I think if it can encourage somebody who thinks they’re spending a little bit too much time on their problems it can show them there’s a lot to be grateful for,” JP says. “I think it helps to change people’s perspective and attitude.”
The book can be purchased at http://www.mimiandphoenix.com.
MS, a neurological disease, is known as “Canada’s disease” because the country has the highest prevalence in the world. One in every 340 Canadians live with MS, and three more Canadians are diagnosed with it every day. It affects three times as many women as men.
– With files from Canadian Press