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Multiple sclerosis diagnosis spurs young Calgarian and mom into action

WATCH: Taelor and Jandy Evans have dedicated much of their time to the MS Society since Taelor was diagnosed with the neurological disease five years ago. As Deb Matejicka reports, the young Calgarian has even geared her education to focus on MS research.

Taelor Evans remembers vividly the day she awoke to find she couldn’t see.

“I lost vision completely in one eye,” the 22-year-old Calgarian recalled.

“I woke up one morning and I just couldn’t see out of my right eye.”

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At the time, Taelor was just 16. Her vision kept coming and going, prompting several visits to the ophthalmologist. Eventually, the eye doctor discovered the issue.

“It was optic neuritis, which is often the first sign of MS for a lot of people,” said Taelor, who didn’t know much about multiple sclerosis at the time, except that, “it could impact me in the future.”

It took a year after that initial episode before doctors would confirm what Taelor and her mother, Jandy Evans, had come to suspect – Taelor had multiple sclerosis.

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“We were very scared but we kind of supported each other,” Evans said.

READ MORE: Calgary Olympian stands up and paddles to raise funds for MS, Parkinson’s disease

According to the MS Society of Canada, multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disease affecting young Canadian adults. People between the ages of 15 and 40 are most likely to be diagnosed, with women three times more likely to develop the disease than men.

“It’s very tough talking to people who don’t know a whole lot about MS,” Taelor explained. “One of the most common things is people always assume you’re fine because you look fine.”

“When I tell them I have MS, they don’t understand, because they think it’s only a disease that old people will get. So for me, it’s frustrating as a young person, because I know that they’re diagnosing younger and younger now.”

READ MORE: Women are 3 times more likely to get MS than men — here’s what we know

Taelor says the frustration is exasperated by the fact her symptoms are always visible or always present. Heat and stress can often trigger a flare-up for her.

“I’ll have tingling in my feet and my hands,” she said. “My vision still hasn’t fully recovered so I will still see black in one eye, if not both sometimes. I’ll be very exhausted and I just can’t think.

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“So it’s not just tired like I need to go for a nap or go to bed. It’s tired like I can’t process and I cannot think and it’s very hard to hold a conversation with somebody because I’m just, yeah, clouded.”

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Despite of and mostly because of her diagnosis, both Taelor and her mother have committed much of their time to the MS Society and research.

Taelor is currently pursuing her master’s degree after completing her undergraduate in health sciences. She has spent the past three summers doing MS research; both daughter and mother sit on committees for a variety of MS Society events and fundraisers.

“Especially being part of the research, it feels I am like directly fighting for myself among the many other people that are living with MS,” Taelor said.

READ MORE: Health Canada approval of multiple sclerosis drug ‘absolutely a game-changer’

Her mother, who has helped organize the society’s annual golf tournament, said she’s hopeful for the future.

“Every time I hit somebody up for money, asking for money, I know, maybe their dollar will be the one that finds a cure,” Jandy said.

Since 1948, the MS Society has contributed over $175 million towards research. Wednesday’s golf tournament is looking to raise an additional $45,000 to help continue the fight to find a cure.

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“I’m very hopeful (a cure can be found) and I think that it is possible it’s just that we need to raise money to do it and so much of the money that the MS Society does raise goes toward the research,” Taelor said. “So I feel that if people keep on donating and participating in the events, I think it’s very possible in the future.”

READ MORE: How a children’s book – and a puppy – helped Ontario woman cope with multiple sclerosis

Jandy agreed, stating she’ll keep fighting for funds on behalf of the MS Society until a cure is found.

“I just keep thinking what if – if I don’t do it…they may not have money to keep trying. But I know they’re getting close. I know it.”

“She’s my daughter and I want nothing more than for a cure to be developed so I’ll keep doing this until I can’t anymore.”

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The MS Golf Calgary charity tournament tees off Sept. 12 at the Elbow Springs Golf Course. More information on the event and how to donate to MS research can be found at msgolf.ca.