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ALS claimed life of local man

Heather Rennalls For QMI Agency
Submitted photoTerry Lumsden s life was cut short after he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig s Disease.

Submitted photoTerry Lumsden s life was cut short after he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig s Disease.

Just imagine for a moment that you are not able to speak. Just imagine that you are not able to swallow. Now imagine that you are not able to eat. Imagine still that you are not able to sip liquids. This is what life is like with someone who is afflicted with Bulbar ALS.

"ALS. Three letters that change people's lives FOREVER."

This slogan from the ALS Society of Canada rang true for my family three years ago when my mother was diagnosed with this dreaded disease. Prior to that date, I did not know what ALS was, never mind what it stood for.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after the famous American baseball player who died of ALS in 1941. ALS is a progressive and ultimately fatal neuromuscular disease, resulting in nerve cell degeneration. These nerve cells control movement by sending electrical impulses from the brain to the muscles. When the motor neurons degenerate, the muscles weaken, resulting in paralysis. Bulbar are the muscles in the mouth that control chewing, swallowing and speaking. ALS has no known cause, cure or treatment. Individuals who are diagnosed with ALS do not typically survive beyond three to five years. This devastating disease slowly robs the individual of the ability to walk, talk and ultimately, to breathe causing death.

After my mother was afflicted with this dreaded disease, I began a door-to-door canvassing campaign in my neighbourhood in Norwich during the spring of 2008, to raise funds for ALS. To my surprise, I found many people who knew of or had known someone who had this disease.

Harlene Lumsden's husband, Terry, was diagnosed with ALS in July 2007. In January that same year, Terry sprained his right ankle. Harlene said, "all of a sudden he started dragging his foot." Although Terry had a cane, he managed at work without one. Soon, Terry was not able to lift his leg and by June 2007, his family physician told Terry he no longer could work. Terry worked for 17 years at Marwood Metals. By July, Terry required assistance and CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) was contacted. Terry had the use of his left hand and was able to write.

There are two major origins of ALS - familial and Sporadic. Approximately 10 per cent of people affected with ALS have the familial type, which is passed on genetically from a parent. It is common for two or three family members to be diagnosed with familial ALS. Sporadic ALS has no known cause but environmental toxins may be a factor.

According to the ALS Society of Canada, the World Health Organization predicts that neurodegenerative diseases will surpass cancer as the second leading cause of death in Canada by 2040. Presently, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians are living with ALS.

No matter how or why someone gets ALS, the outcome is always the same. A person afflicted with ALS will see their health deteriorate eventually resulting in their death. After a two-and-a-half-year battle against this dreaded disease, my mother died on Nov. 30, 2009. Only a year and half after his diagnosis, Terry Lumsden passed away on Dec. 24, 2008. Any caregiver of a loved one afflicted with ALS can tell you that it is very difficult witnessing their loved one's health deteriorate before your eyes and the utter helpless you feel in not being able to help ease their pain.

As a result of my mother's ordeal, I started rising funds for the London Walk for ALS that occurs every year in September sponsored by the ALS Society of Ontario. The 2009 Walk for ALS was held in 27 communities across Ontario. The ALS Society of Ontario is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing necessary equipment and support services to people living with ALS. They also provide funding to the ALS Society of Canada that is used for research in finding a cure.

I have participated in the London Walk for ALS for two years with the team "Lilian's Ladies and Friends." In 2008 my mother completed the entire 5 km walk in her walker. This year I plan to have a yard sale on Sat., June 19 at the parking lot at the Legion and Norwich Community Center on Stover St. All funds raised from the sales of this yard sale will go directly to the London Walk for ALS. Anyone spending $20 or more will receive an official tax receipt from the ALS Society of Ontario. To donate, or for more information, see HYPERLINK "http://www.als.ca/events/mysite.aspx?fid=4492"http://www.als.ca/events/mysite.aspx?fid=4492 about the team 'ALS Walk in Memory of Lilian Rennalls.'

This year, the London Walk for ALS will be held at Springbank Gardens in London Sept. 25.