One man’s journey to fight
The distance between Bearskin Lake, a First Nations community, and Thunder Bay is over 600 kilometers, but for Howard Arthur McKay, the journey was much further. Howard has lived with Parkinson’s disease for 20 years, and despite the support and care of his wife, Jessie McKay, he had no choice but to leave his roots when the illness progressed and move to Thunder Bay to seek professional medical attention.
Howard’s daughter, Sharon Angeconeb, has been a major support for Howard and an avid participant in Parkinson SuperWalk, a nation-wide fundraiser.
“Everyone looks after each other. It has been years since my father left but Bearskin still supports him,” said Angeconeb. “We participate in the SuperWalk because there’s a need for Parkinson’s awareness in the northern First Nations communities and a need for easier access to Parkinson’s specialists.”
Although a practical choice, the move to Thunder Bay to seek better healthcare was challenging because of the culture shock for Howard and his family.
“My parents don’t speak English very well, so they need an interpreter to make sure Howard and the doctor can understand each other,” Angeconeb said. “It was very difficult to move to an urban centre when you’ve lived up north your whole life.”
Like anyone who is patriotic, the McKays are proud of where they are from. Howard especially was proud of his way of life and tradition in Bearskin. When Parkinsons came into his life uninvited, he found the change in lifestyle difficult to accept.
“It’s one thing to battle the disease, but my father has had to give up his sense of pride and privacy. He cannot look after himself independently the way he used to. Giving those things up and one’s culture is tough,” she said.
Howard is one of 100,000 Canadians who live with Parkinson’s, but thankfully he has the support of his family and friends to help ease his transition through this process.
While there is no known cure yet for Parkinsons, Angeconeb and her family share in the goal of Parkinson Society Central and Northern Ontario – that one day a cure will be found. In efforts to find a cure, Parkinson Society is holding its 23rd annual Parkinson SuperWalk on Sept. 7 in Thunder Bay. Angeconeb, along with roughly 30 other “HAMsters” will be walking as team HAM Clan (Howard’s initials) to raise money and awareness.
Last year, Parkinson SuperWalk raised $3.24 million nationally with all proceeds going towards research, education, support, and advocacy. This year, Angeconeb and 3,000 others will be walking in central and northern Ontario to fundraise and spread awareness.
Visit http://www.parkinsonsuperwalk.ca for how you can help make a difference.
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