Bella Coola’s Tim Michalchuk’s incredible journey is now underway. After over a month of training, the 28-year-old maintenance/mechanic began his 1100 km walk from Prince George’s MS clinic to the Vancouver clinic of the University of B.C. will raise awareness and funds to help his partner of 10 years get hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) therapy.
Tim and Shannon share two young children, Mavorneen, 7, and Peter, 4. Shannon also has four adult children and one grandchild. After putting their children to bed Tim would head out every night, walking 15 km to train with a hope of putting in 35 km a day. He’s now up to 40 km a day.
MS is the most common neurological disease to affect young adults in Canada. It is estimated that close to 100,000 Canadians are living with the condition.
Tim’s wife, 45-year old Shannon Dickson, was definitely diagnosed with MS about four years ago. But the disease didn’t begin to seriously affect her until recently.
“Pretty much life stayed fairly normal other than minor numbness in both hands and one foot that steadily crept up my limbs. I had some brain fog and fatigue issues but nothing that really affected our lifestyle,” she explains.
That all changed after a car accident at Christmas time, which radically accelerated her symptoms.
“I lost the function of my left hand. I now require someone to cut my food for me, I can’t do zippers or buttons or tie my shoes,” Shannon says. “The left side of my body and my right leg have lost feeling and I use a cane to walk most days. On bad days I need someone to help me get around. My balance is gone making standing a real task.”
She said a rare blood type precludes her from stem cell research trials in Canada, so her only options are clinics in the U.S. and U.K., which are expensive and involve travel. Tim decided it was time to act, so he chose to walk.
“If I can offer any kind of hope at all that she can have back the relationship with her young ones that she used to have, then anything is worth it,” said Michalchuk. “Basically all I gotta do is concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.”
Both Dickson and Michalchuk are long-time Bella Coolans, and have enjoyed support from family, locals, and businesses along the way.
The first pilot driver was Tim’s grandfather, Allen Kaytor, and he’s currently on the road with his father, Lawrence Michalchuk.
Shannon said donations have been overflowing the travel trailer in the form of groceries, shoes, custom raincoats and more.
“He’s doing pretty well, his knees were bothering him initially but he’s past that now,” she said.
The plan is for the couple to meet in Vancouver at the same time Shannon has an appointment with the MS clinic there.
“I will be there when he gets to Vancouver and hopefully at other points along the way,” Shannon says.
At press time, Tim was in the Okanagan on his way to Vernon.