ALS Month is Coming Soon

May 27, 2019

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease), is an incurable, rapidly progressive neuromuscular disease, which eventually paralyzes those diagnosed with it. This is due to the brain's inability to communicate with the muscles of the body that we would otherwise be able to move voluntarily. Eventually, the muscles degenerate and the person effected by ALS is robbed of the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and finally to breathe. For most of us, this is unimaginable; however, for the estimated 3,000 Canadians currently living with ALS, it's their reality. It emphasizes the need for all of us to work together to support ALS Canada and provincial ALS societies in their important work to raise essential funds for research and support services.

According to ALS Canada, ALS is the most common cause of neurological death in Canada with an incidence rate (number of new diagnoses) estimated to be 2/100,000 people per year. It's a disease that doesn't discriminate. It affects all ethnic and socio-economic groups. It can also strike young or quite elderly adults, but is most often diagnosed in those who are middle-aged or in late adulthood.

Unlike many diseases, ALS doesn't have a specific cause. It is instead seen as having several interacting causes that are likely based on changes in a person's genes. Environmental factors may also play a contributing role. Several genes have been identified for their role in the development of the disease. Through ongoing research, more knowledge continues to be gained about the factors which lead to the development of ALS.

The symptoms and signs of ALS, as well as the order in which they may occur, can vary from one person to another in the early stages of the disease. Potential early signs include: tripping, dropping things, slurred or “thick” speech, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, decreased muscle tone, shortness of breath, increased or decreased reflexes, and uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. Potential early symptoms include: feeling weak, fatigue, muscle cramping or twitching, and muscle stiffness or rigidity. As the disease progresses, muscle weakening continues to spread throughout the person's body, ultimately leading to difficulties with breathing, chewing, swallowing, and speaking. However, the senses of sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell aren't typically impacted and for many, the muscles of the eyes and bladder continue to work until very late in the disease.

The devastating impact of ALS extends to the family and loved ones of those living with ALS, as costly equipment and care is needed. According to ALS Canada, 80 per cent of the burden of care is carried by the family members of those with ALS. Furthermore, the disease depletes the physical, emotional, and financial resources of caregivers.

I know, firsthand, the crushing brunt of ALS on those living with the disease and their families. My father had ALS for four years before succumbing to it. It was terrible watching him suffer the effects of this debilitating disease; however, it inspired me to take action to help others suffering from it. I, therefore, introduced my Private Member's Bill C-205 (An Act to designate the month of June as ALS Month), also known as the ALS Month Act, in the House of Commons on December 10, 2015. If the bill were to pass, it would officially designate June as ALS Month.

We can all do our part to support ALS Month in June and Canadians suffering with the disease by purchasing a cornflower and by joining a “Walk to End ALS” taking place right here in our community. The Orangeville walk is scheduled for June 01, 2019. Registration will occur at 8:30 a.m. with the walk starting at 10:00 a.m. at the Island Lake Conservation Area. For more information, please visit https://walktoendals.ca/participate-or-donate/ontario/ or contact orangeville@walktoendals.ca

This June, I encourage you to join the outstanding efforts made by ALS Canada and all of the provincial ALS societies. Their tireless work towards increasing awareness of the disease and raising essential funds for research and support continues to make a positive difference in supporting Canadians living with ALS and their families.

For more information on ALS and ALS Canada, please visit www.als.ca/