When I moved to the west coast four years ago, I moved to Powell River, British Columbia, a place I now call home. I enjoy hiking, kayaking or anything that will get me outdoors in beautiful BC. But it also meant moving away from my family, friends, and clients – and moving away from the MS Walk in Ontario, a family tradition in honour of my uncle Frank.
My uncle Frank lived with progressive MS and passed away in 2012. I always get a bit emotional when talking about him, as he was a really big part of my life. His struggle with the disease was so hard to watch, especially closer to the end, but our family was very supportive and tried to help as much as we could. My uncle was a huge family man and everyone was so close to him, I even lived with him and my aunt for a while. He was just a really loving, caring person who had such a positive outlook on life. Before he was diagnosed with progressive MS, he was into running, swimming, golfing, and was very active, so it was an especially hard when he began to lose his mobility.
He lived with progressive MS, and towards the end, someone always had to stay with him as he had lost most of his mobility. He loved watching Oprah, and I remember sitting next to him as we watched a particular segment featuring Montel Williams – a talk show host who also lived with MS. I remember my uncle watching the show and looking at me, telling me that Montel was saying things he wished he could verbalize, and that he knew exactly what Montel was talking about.
To support my uncle, every year I would participate in the MS Walk with my family in Ontario. Though the weather didn’t always cooperate, the company was always great! Being a hairstylist, my clients became family and they knew everything about my connection to MS, so they would always support me and donate to the Walk. My family in Ontario still walks, and now they do a big fundraiser “Franks for Frank” to raise money for the team. Since moving out to the west coast, I’ve tried to do a hike the same weekend as my way of staying connected. But, this year I thought I would do something a little bit more out of the box!
I work in the hair industry, so as a personal challenge I decided I wanted to shave my head to raise money for the MS Society. It was something I had always wanted to try and for me, shaving my head wasn’t really a big deal. I’ve had short hair for almost all of my life, and had shaved one side of my head before. I looked into it, and found out about I Challenge MS as a way to raise money through my challenge. I’m not someone who really likes to make a big deal about things, so I mostly fundraised through word of mouth and social media. My I Challenge MS was very much a personal challenge – a way for me to stay connected to my family, to stay connected with the MS Society, and to my uncle. So, surrounded by some of my closest friends I shaved my head and raised over $1500 for MS.
I took on an I Challenge MS because I’m someone who always tries to have a positive outlook on life and to help others – something that I learned from my uncle. Despite what he went through, he woke up with a positive outlook, saying that “there’s someone out there who is going through something worse than me”. I try to bring as much positivity as I can into my everyday life. My uncle’s journey with MS really changed my perspective on life, and I try to live each day to the fullest, because you never know what the next will bring.
Stephanie is a fearless hairstylist living in British Columbia, and raised nearly over $1, 500 through her I Challenge MS event. Feeling inspired by her story? Check out our Walking events from Canada and around the world