Halton Region WALK for ALS

When Mike and Carmen Cels participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, they had no idea that ALS would affect them on a personal level. Both professionals in the pharmaceutical industry, they were peripherally aware of the disease at the time; however, it wasn’t until Mike was diagnosed with ALS in 2017 that they had to face the realities of the disease head-on.

Through his field of work and passing knowledge of Stephen Hawking, Mike knew that ALS affected mobility, but the terminal nature of the disease was not on his radar. As for Carmen, she lost her grandmother to ALS when she was 14 but didn’t fully understand the implications of those three letters at such a young age. In many ways, the Ice Bucket Challenge pre-emptively prepared the couple for Mike’s diagnosis: “It completely took our breath away,” says Carmen. “It was like being hit with a bucket of ice water.”

Mike always led an active lifestyle, travelling extensively and participating in numerous 10 km charity runs. In fact, it was during one of those 10 km runs that he first began to notice the early symptoms of ALS.

“I ran my last 10k in September 2016,” he says. “It was by far the slowest time I had ever run and I knew something was wrong.”

Two months later, he started experiencing difficulties with his balance and tightness in his calves. He decided to go to the doctor in March of 2017 and received the official diagnosis in November.

Although only recently diagnosed, Mike and Carmen both attest to the “tremendous support” they have received from ALS Canada, including a lift chair to help Mike stand more easily. In addition to the one on one support they have received from their Regional Manager, both Mike and Carmen have also attended support groups. “They’re tremendously informative,” says Carmen. “I absolutely think they’re worth going to.”

Halton Region WALK for ALS

Mike and Carmen will be participating in the Halton Region WALK for ALS on May 21, along with their children, Cynthia and Jonathan — ages 20 and 17 respectively. Photo of Cels family together on vacationTogether, the family of four makes up Team Cels, and it will be the first year they participate in the WALK for ALS.

“The WALK is an opportunity for Carmen and me to spend quality time with our children before they head off to University,” says Mike. “We’re really looking forward to sharing this special time as a family.”

Although there is much to look forward to on the day of the event, Mike does anticipate a couple of challenges for him and his family.

Photo of Mike and his kids in Washington DC“We’re still quite new to this,” he says. “I’ve had relatively few visible changes so far, so the WALK may be the first time my kids see what ALS can look like once I progress. It may be the first time this disease becomes real for them.”

Carmen shares Mike’s concern, but also welcomes the opportunity to meet new people in the ALS community and reconnect with members of the support groups in a different environment. She feels that the WALK paves the way for Cynthia and Jonathan to network with other families going through the same journey.

Through all the emotional and physical highs and lows of the event, Mike and Carmen see the WALK for ALS as an opportunity to give back and join a passionate community united to challenge the disease.

“Many people have asked us what they can do to help,” says Mike. “The best thing they can do is support us at the WALK for ALS in Halton. As a community, we will all be better for it.”

To learn more about your local WALK for ALS, please visit www.walkforals.ca. Donations for all WALK for ALS events are being accepted until December 31, 2018.

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