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This man is biking across Canada to raise $1M and break barriers for those with multiple sclerosis
When Jonathan Allenger begins his epic cycling journey across Canada this weekend, it won’t just be to raise a million dollars to fight multiple sclerosis.
The 39-year-old wants to show Canadians living with MS that they can still dream big.
“I hope that it shows people there’s no shame in talking about what they’re experiencing. I hope it breaks down that barrier,” said Allenger, who was diagnosed with the condition following an onset of symptoms in 2013.
Allenger’s ride begins during MS Awareness month, and he hopes the money raised will contribute to curing the condition that affects nearly 100,000 Canadians.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks myelin, an insulating layer around nerves. The resulting damage prevents the nervous system from properly transmitting signals.
For Allenger, the range of physical and mental symptoms include fatigue, brain fog and periodic difficulty with executive function, which allows people to plan, organize or problem-solve.
“The uncertainty can be debilitating,” said Allenger, adding that it can also cause extreme anxiety and panic attacks.
Progressive forms of the disease can result in paralysis and inability to independently function.
12 people diagnosed each day, says MS Canada
Becky Mitts, vice-president of community for MS Canada, says 12 people a day are diagnosed with the condition in Canada. Women are three times more likely in Canada to have MS than men, she says.
According to Mitts, there are now 19 “disease-modifying therapies” for MS, but no cure. And its causes are still unknown. Nevertheless, MS Canada has funded $200 million in research over its 75-year history with nearly all its current backing coming from private donations or fundraising like Allenger’s.
“Our vision at MS Canada is a world free of MS,” she said.
Allenger is now hoping to add to that total with a dream he’s had for almost a decade.
He says the idea of cycling across Canada came into focus when he suffered a “mental health crisis” after learning from his neurologist in January that his MS had progressed.
Allenger says he’s long found comfort in cycling, which he took up in 2014 after his friends joined an MS Bike event to show solidarity following his diagnosis.
“Getting out there, being active makes me feel good. It helps me counter some of these effects of having this disease.”
No cure yet, but major recent discoveries made
Mitts tells CBC News that research from Harvard University shows nearly everybody living with MS had the Epstein–Barr Virus (which causes mono) before diagnosis.
“We’ve just discovered this interesting puzzle piece.”
Researchers in Canada such as Dr. Maryam Faiz, a University of Toronto-based neuroscientist and researcher with Medicine by Design, a community of regenerative medicine researchers, are working hard on new technologies that could help treat MS.
Faiz invited CBC Toronto to her lab, where a team works on a cutting-edge gene therapy involving reprogramming the cells that drive the progression of MS into cells that are lost in the disease and needed for proper function.
“We can deliver codes or instructions to cells to tell them to become another type of cell,” said Faiz.
She says this includes the type of cell that produces myelin, adding that replacing those cells could potentially improve some of those symptoms.
“I think that would lead to an improvement in the quality of life for MS patients,” said Faiz.
The research, which is partly funded through Medicine by Design, is still in early development, but Faiz says it could potentially have wide-ranging applicability for other diseases.
She also hopes it will eventually go to clinical trials.
‘We need to invest in this now’
Mitts says the kind of work Faiz and her team are doing could have “massive” benefits. But, she says, more money is needed.
Mitts says she was in Ottawa the same day she spoke to CBC News, asking members of Parliament for $15 million in research funding.
“The time is now. We know we need to invest in this now. We have the information, we have the data,” she said .
Meanwhile, she’s proud of Allenger and grateful for the work he’s doing for MS Canada.
“He is so remarkable,” said Mitts.
A team of people will help Allenger along the way, including his step-dad and cousin.
He’s also hoping people will engage with him in person or through social media and contribute to the campaign as he makes his way from coast to coast.
“Journey with Jonathan is about having other people join us and participate because we’re trying to do this together as a community.”
Wellness and rejuvenation on a Whistler weekend
The freshness of spring is giving way to the languor of summer. It’s also that time of year when I step up my health and fitness habits, with the help of a wellness weekend getaway. Check out these ten wholesome ways to experience Whistler.
1. Eat well, be well at a new event series
Making its debut the Nourish Spring Series by Cornucopia celebrates the season every weekend in June with farm-to-table fare, farm tours, lavish wellness dinners, healthy brunches and activities to refresh both mind and body. Sit down to a four-course spring harvest tasting menu (Brome Lake duck breast with Pemberton beets, anyone?), brush up on grilling skills with an expert chef, pick up painting pointers on an art picnic or jump into an outdoor Zumba class. Order tickets online at whistler.com/events/spring-cornucopia.
2. Chill at a spa
With more than 12 spa facilities in town, it could be said that Whistler has everyone’s back. Pop into the Whistler Day Spa for a 75-minute stress relief massage using Swedish relaxation techniques or the Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa for an 80-minute herbal steam massage using pouches filled with Javanese turmeric, ginger and other spices. Have more time? Dip into the hot-cold-and-relaxing thermal journey at the silent Scandinave Spa Whistler, home to open-air pools, cold-plunge baths, a Finnish sauna, Nordic showers and solariums in a tranquil forest setting.
3. Lace up for new guided hikes
Trek past alpine meadows flush with wildflowers on the way to glacier-fed Garibaldi Lake or meander through a fragrant rainforest before taking a dip in Crater Rim’s warm Loggers Lake. These are just a couple of guided hike options from Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures. Prefer to stay close to town? Sign up for the Whistler Alpine Hike and explore the gondola-accessed terrain of Whistler Blackcomb.
4. Embark on an ebike adventure
Sneak in some good clean fun with an ebike rental or guided tour. Explore Whistler’s car-free Valley Trail, a 46-km network of paved paths and boardwalks linking the resort town’s neighbourhoods and lakes, beaches, parks and viewpoints along the way. Go it alone or hop on a full-suspension electric-assist mountain bike with Whistler Eco Tours for a two-hour guided ride. Prefer an old-school ride or want to hit the alpine trails? Comfort cruisers, cross-country and downhill bikes are also on hand.
5. Expand the mind at an Indigenous exhibit
You have until October to view, the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s Unceded: A Photographic Journey into Belonging. Shot at striking locales throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor, the exhibit brings together aspects of ancient traditions, modern Indigenous life, and colonization and development. Behold the bear dancer on Blackcomb Mountain, the cultural chief in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler lobby and the Squamish Nation chair standing in the middle of downtown Vancouver’s West Cordova St.
6. Get down, be healthy at a new café
Boogie back in time to the ’70s and ’80s at the new Rockit Coffee in Whistler Creekside. From the speaker-lined wall and vintage phones, radios and ghetto blasters to menu items like Espresso Greatest Hits and Drinks Just Wanna Have Fun, the colourful café exudes a decidedly retro vibe. Pull up a chair and order a nutritious Aero-Smoothie – choose from the Green Day, Bananarama or Strawberry Fields Forever – and pair it with a Veggie Eilish breakfast wrap or Prosciutto Rhapsody sandwich.
7. Check into wellness
Go for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s healthful options like daily yoga classes, guided excursions and access to pools, steam rooms, the fitness centre, tennis court and (soon) new pickle ball courts. But stay for the regionally sourced seasonal menus – complemented by the rooftop garden’s bounty from May to October – and no-proof cocktail selection in the Mallard Lounge.
8. Float down a winding river
Canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard along the meandering five-km-long River of Golden Dreams. After putting in at Alta Lake, paddle past riverbanks lined with wildflowers, foliage and forest, all the while keeping an eye out for beavers, otters, eagles and bears. Newbie paddlers are advised to go with a guide, as changing water levels can make for tricky steering and mandatory portages.
9. Connect with nature on a new birding trail
Watch for whiskey jacks, Clark’s nutcrackers and, come summer, lots and lots of swallows along the Sea to Sky Bird Trail. The fifth and most recent route to be added to the BC Bird Trail network along the Pacific Flyway, the new trail takes birders to alpine heights (lift ticket required) where they can spot olive-sided flycatchers and various raptors. Then it’s off to Rainbow Park on Alta Lake to spy common yellow throats and merlins.
10. Wake up beside a lake
Perched along the southern tip of Nita Lake in Whistler Creekside, Nita Lake Lodge checks off all the boxes for a dreamy wellness escape. Start with stunning water and valley views from luxe suites, currently undergoing a modern refresh slated to wrap in time for summer. Then there’s the new onsite restaurant, The Den, where plant-based alternatives share space with meat and seafood items on the seasonal menus. Topping off a salubrious stay at Whistler’s only lakeside hotel is an award-winning spa with rooftop hot tubs.
HIV stigma index researchers look for Manitobans with positive diagnoses to share experience
Manitoba researchers looking for people to take part in a national HIV Stigma Index project are only about halfway to their goal of hearing from at least 75 people living with a positive diagnosis.
The international peer-driven research project helps understand the stigma associated with HIV and supports those living with a diagnosis.
“I wouldn’t say that anybody ran out and said ‘I’m gonna go get HIV today and see how that happens.’ Things happen to people and it’s our duty as human beings to support people no matter what they’re going through,” research co-ordinator Arthur Miller told CBC Information Radio Wednesday.
The Canadian HIV Stigma Index is a community-led and community-based research study, part of the international implementation of the People Living with HIV Stigma Index project
Participants are interviewed by another person living with a positive diagnosis. Interviews are about an hour-and-a-half long and can be done in person, by phone or through a video conferencing platform, said Miller, a Mi’kmaw HIV activist based out of Nova Scotia and research co-ordinator of the project with REACH Nexus, under the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at Unity Health Toronto.
The national project has been done in Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, and this is the second time it’s being done in Manitoba, with an updated survey.
Researchers collect information related to stigma, discrimination and human rights, with the aim of better understanding the social determinants and stigma across systems like health care, schools and legal fields. The research aims to help people develop supports and policies at both local and national levels.
Peer-driven aspect crucial
Jared Star, a research manager at Winnipeg’s Nine Circles Community Health Centre, which specializes in HIV prevention and care, said the HIV Stigma Index’s peer-driven aspect is crucial for participants.
“They know that they won’t be judged,” he said. “They won’t have to explain situations and details that come naturally for them, because they’re talking to somebody with the same experience.”
Star is also a research consultant and PhD student with expertise in sexual health, alongside his work with Nine Circles, which is working closely with Miller on the project.
“It’s better for the study if we can collect the data in a shorter period of time, but because it’s qualitative research, it tends to take longer than a survey,” said Star. “But the more we can get up front and faster, the better.”
Star said the information gained from the project will help people move from a place of supporting and sustaining stigma to actively challenging and resisting it.
“I think if we do a good job and we’re able to get that information and then develop interventions that target stigma, we will be able to contribute to a reduction in HIV infections in Manitoba,” he said.
Education key to understanding
Much more is known about HIV now than 30 years ago — like how to prevent transmission and that it’s no longer a death sentence.
With proper care, people who are HIV positive can lead long, healthy lives.
Miller said education is key and pointed to the fact that many don’t understand somebody with an undetectable viral load who adheres to treatment can’t transmit HIV through sexual intercourse.
“This is big for people with HIV,” he said. “For me, it felt like I got part of my life back.”
Manitobans willing to share their experiences through the HIV Stigma Index project can contact Miller at email@example.com or by phone at 1-877-347-1175 to begin the process.
“The great thing about this study is we’re building this network of people living with HIV,” Miller said. “You’re going to be talking with someone living with HIV, so they can relate and share some experiences.”
May 27, 2023 coronavirus update for Oakville
This is Oakville’s coronavirus update for Saturday, May 27, 2023. New, active cases of COVID-19 in Halton have nearly doubled for the second week in a row, and outbreaks at local long-term care homes are growing.
Oakville is reporting 22 new cases this week, about the same as the week before. But these last two reports from Halton regional health are the highest numbers of new cases in months – and active cases are now trending upwards by 50-100% weekly.
The outbreak that opened earlier this month at Oakville’s West Oak Village long-term care home has been contained to the Harbour floor. But there are two new outbreaks that have opened this week in other parts of Halton, including one at Oakville’s Northridge home on the Chisholm floor.
Halton continues to fall behind on our booster shots: only 1 of every 10 people in Halton have a full series of immunization, and the percentage of residents with outdated immunization has grown every week since the start of 2023. Among those 40 and under, those fully immunized is now below 5%.
The United States this week has said they and the CDC will no longer be tracking new, aggregate daily COVID-19 cases and deaths or new nationwide testing data.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that after more than three years, the COVID-19 global health emergency is now over. WHO has determined that “COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).”
765 million cases of COVID-19 have now been recorded worldwide since the start of the pandemic; 6.9 million people have died.
**Vaccine booking: Fourth doses (second booster doses) of vaccine are now available for anyone in Halton age 5 and up, though fourth doses must be at least five months since your last dose and 90 days since having COVID-19.
Halton continues to book first and second-dose vaccinations for all residents age six months and older, plus third-dose boosters for anyone age 5 and up.
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