Angela Kirby

Angela Kirby

July 27, 2015
JEAN KO DIN
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

Angela Kirby believes in living life to its fullest and won't let the challenges of multiple sclerosis get in her way.

Diagnosed with MS at the age of 50, she never felt deterred from hiking up mountains and travelling the world.

So to mark her 70th birthday and the 20th anniversary of her diagnosis, Kirby has decided to spend the year on a tour around the world to raise money and awareness for MS research.

MS is an autoimmune disorder in which nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This disrupts the nervous system's ability to communicate, resulting in a wide range of physical, mental and sometimes psychiatric problems.

Walking a World of Friendships for MS began on May 27 in her hometown of Pickering, Ont., to coincide with World MS Day.

Since then, she has done walks in several cities in Canada and the United States.

Now, she has embarked on the main leg of her international tour, visiting several cities in the United Kingdom.

"I'm not walking the whole world. I'm just doing five-kilometre walks at a time," she said.

"The idea is to put MS on the front burner for people who haven't been aware of it before. I'm just hoping many, many people will pledge the walk, not just in their own country, but in other countries as well."

Kirby said a very important part of her journey with MS is her faith in God. She said her devotion to Mass and the Eucharist has given her energy and a hopeful attitude through the obstacles she has faced.

GOD BY HER SIDE

"If I didn't have my God, I don't think I'd have been able to get through it," she said.

Kirby is a communion minister and lector at Holy Redeemer parish in Pickering. She said the community has been a great support for her throughout the years.

Many fellow parishioners have faithfully sponsored her fundraising walks, especially during the annual MS Walk.

Recently, Kirby finished a walk in Boston where she raised about $650 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the United States. About nine others came out to join her walk through the city and a few supporters came out to cheer her on.

"There was this little old lady walking with a stick, very frail, who came up to me," said Kirby.

"She wanted to give me a donation and that just made it so special that somebody who is a complete stranger comes out of their home to see me and give me some support."

Her goal is to complete 31 walks in 13 countries to raise money for MS research institutions in each of the countries. So far, she has raised about Cdn$5,300.

"Knowing we are all waiting for that elusive cure, I felt that while I am still able, I should make a concerted effort to raise more money wherever I could, in whatever country I could," she said.

AFFLICTED IN ONE DAY

Kirby was diagnosed with MS in April 1996.

"I woke up one morning and my little finger was numb," said Kirby. "My next finger went numb and by the end of the day, my whole hand was numb. By the Sunday, my whole side was numb."

Because of her MS, Kirby is often fatigued and sometimes needs a walking stick. She also experiences inflammation in her optic nerve which affects her eyesight for a period of time, yet she believes she is very fortunate.

In fact, she is more concerned for younger people diagnosed in their 20s because the disease is much more aggressive at that age.