This year I decided to throw my support behind endMS, an initiative of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada that aims to raise $60 million to fund research activities surrounding the causes and potential cures of this unpredictable disease.
MS is a mysterious autoimmune disease that affects each patient in different ways. Some are permanently paralyzed; some suffer attacks on their eyesight; and some experiences intense fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Despite the variability in symptoms, there are only a few treatments available to MS patients. Most of them are in the form of an injection (the choice between a weekly deep-muscle injection and a daily subcutaneous shot is a slightly nauseating game of “Would you rather?”), each option with their own side effects including flu-like symptoms, migraine headaches and skin irritation at the site of the injection. MS medications in the form of digestible pills are now entering the Canadian market, but at a cost of more than $30,000 per year, they won’t be feasible for many patients until our provincial drug insurance programs offer coverage.
Patients have gotten so fed up with the limited world of treatment options that they have taken great physical and financial risk in pursuing other options. Last year, many Canadians traveled to places such as Costa Rica to try Dr. Zamboni’s “liberation therapy,” a surgical procedure that focuses on clearing veins in the neck (the theory is that the disease is caused by physical blockages in the veins that drain the central nervous system). This therapy has alleviated the symptoms of some patients; others have emptied their savings accounts but noticed no improvement. Still others have died after suffering complications from the operation.
Clearly, we need better treatment options available at home. MS affects an estimated 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians – there is no reason why Canadians should be flying to clinics in Costa Rica or Bulgaria to receive risky treatments. The fundraising efforts of endMS are worthy of our support because they are specific and goal-driven. We know that donations will contribute to something good. endMS has already established a Research and Training Network, which funds researchers in their quest to add to our knowledge of the causes and potential cures of MS. These funding opportunities are offered to undergraduate and medical students, as well as researchers completing post-doctoral study, with the financial support extending into the first three years of a former student's independent MS-related faculty position at a Canadian institution. I appreciate this use of funds because it encourages fresh talent in the medical community to focus on MS. The next generation of Canadian medical researchers will be drawn to MS as a field of study because it offers them financial support while they hone new research techniques.
Donating to charity is a big decision. You need to feel passionate about the cause and trust that your funds are being put to good use. I appreciate that endMS is so specific in setting goals for MS research. The fact that they aim to better the future, for both researchers and patients, leads me to believe it is a worthy recipient of our donations this year. Follow their progress by reading the endMS blog. You will be assured that the funds are in good hands.
And remember, to support endMS in the Nyman Ink Holiday Give-a-Thon, you don't need to put down any money at all. All you need to do is click. Click your support for this worthwhile charity and Nyman Ink will take care of the rest.
Header image by Miranda Knox, SXC. Body image from the endMS website.