By Mike Pearson, News staff
Amanda Piron went from playing competitive softball to using a walker within a span of six months.
At 17, a progressive form of multiple sclerosis left the York University student unable to walk on her own, let alone run the bases.
Today at 24, Piron is back on her feet. She's also ditched the walker thanks to new treatment technologies and resources from the MS Society of Canada.
“I’m feeling more and more my age every day, which is awesome,” said Piron, an Aurora, Ont. native.
Piron and officials from the MS Society of Canada and A&W Restaurants visited Stoney Creek on Aug. 20 to kick off the sixth annual Cruisin’ to End MS fundraiser which has raised more than $5 million to support research and assist Canadians living with the neurological disease. This year's event is Aug. 21.
Canada has the world’s highest rate of multiple sclerosis, which affects more than 100,000 people. MS is the most common neurological disease affecting Canadian young adults. It can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. Its cause is not known.
Piron, an ambassador for the MS Society, has endured many of the classic MS symptoms, from dizzyness and fatigue to bladder disorders.
After trying two different injectable medications with limited success, Piron dramatically improved her quality of life with an infusion medication administered once per month.
Tysabri, approved by Health Canada in 2006, is designed for patients with relapsing-remitting MS to reduce the frequency of relapses, delay the progression of disability and reduce the number and volume of brain lesions seen on MRIs.
Piron responded positively to the infusible medication. A recent MRI revealed no new brain lesions and her existing lesions were smaller.
Thanks to advancements in MS research, more and more MS treatment options are available each year. Each option carries its own range of benefits and side effects. Patients should discuss their treatment options with a neurologist.
Yves Savoie, president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, said one to two new treatment options have been approved for use annually in Canada over the last five years.
“It’s an exciting time for people with MS and the hope that research brings,” said Savoie.
The MS Society of Canada funds research and provides support services for MS patients.
Paul Hollands, president and CEO of A&W Food Services of Canada, said Cruisin’ to End MS started in Saskatchewan and is now featured nationally at more than 800 locations. More than $1.5 million was raised last year through one dollar donations made with the purchase of every Teen Burger as well as in-store customer donations.
“There’s such engagement from the community,” said Hollands.
A&W is Canada’s second largest quick service hamburger outlet and plans to open 35 to 40 new locations in Canada this year, including 20 in Ontario.