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Walking Together, For Someone Close to Our Hearts!

sclérosé en plaquesAn organization’s corporate engagement is a reflection of its commitment to the community. This is why EPSI chooses to support a cause each year, one that is particularly important to its employees. This year, we opted for the MS Walk, which benefits research on multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects nearly 60,000 Canadians. Its research for a cure and support for the families suffering from this terrible illness are funded by donations from events like the MS Walk. The EPSI family has been particularly touched by multiple sclerosis, since two of our employees have family members with the disease.

To raise awareness about MS, we decided to share with you the experience of the father of one of our colleagues who agreed to help demystify the everyday lives of people wrestling with this condition. Here is his vivid testimonial:

My life with multiple sclerosis

Ghislain LaflammeIt goes without saying that a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is worse than a slap in the face. It disrupts everything, and not just a little. The only thought that runs through your head is, what is going to happen in one year, in two, in three... and after? All of a sudden, you find yourself facing the unknown. Your reactions vary widely from one day to the next. You are up against a wall.

In 1991, my neurologist announced that I had primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Coming from a scientific background (as a trained biologist), I did research on the Internet to learn more and to find as much information as possible. Dark thoughts swarmed all around me.

As the president of my union, at the time, and having several projects underway at work, I decided to redouble my efforts because I wanted to achieve my objectives and I didn’t know how long I would be able to remain effective and efficient.

The first two years were relatively problem-free. So I decided to look ahead, rather than just down at my feet. Everything was almost normal. But I was having a hard time managing my energy levels. Suddenly, I needed a cane to help keep my balance, and later, Canadian crutches. In August 2003, fatigue was one of my worst enemies. So I got myself a wheelchair to cover longer distances, especially at my job at the university. What a relief that was! I could now store up my energy, so that I could do more.

My only limitation was the wheelchair, although I pushed those limits so much that the mechanics at my rehab centre told me that it was wearing out quicker than it should. They had to change several parts, on multiple occasions. In the summer of 2004, I increased my autonomy by modifying my vehicle so that my wheelchair could go inside, since I no longer had the energy to make certain efforts.

In December 2004, my neurologist hit me with a new blow: “You’ve done enough,” he told me. “I am permanently removing you from work.” It made for a welcome rest that winter. I even flew to Florida on vacation. The next summer, I enjoyed a long holiday, the likes of which I’d never had before. But in September 2005, feeling well-rested, it was hard to watch my former colleagues going to work while I was left on the sidelines. I kept up my volunteer activities: as secretary and treasurer of the regional branch of the Association of Biologists of Quebec, member of the Selection and Disciplinary Committee of that same association, which I now chair, setup of a miniature train set in the basement of my home, etc.

I retired in July 2008 to still people’s wagging tongues, because my effective retirement date was September 2012. In September 2008, I got involved with the Association of UQAC Retirees, which I have chaired for the past two years.

I sometimes think that I would prefer to have a normal job. That way, I’d have more free time.

I continue to look ahead... and life is definitely worth living, in spite of it all.

Ghislain Laflamme

Pascal LeguerrierThe MS Walk took place on May 26 all throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada. We proudly walked together, for someone close to our hearts. Our participation will help fund innovative programs and services in the community, as well as research for the cure of MS. For more information, please visit the MS Walk website at http://mswalks.ca/.

Pascal Leguerrier
Assessment and Evaluation Consultant