Published on: June 16, 2016 | Last Updated: June 16, 2016 7:36 AM EDT
Kyle Wallace can’t imagine anything worse than the pain and suffering his dad endured with ALS.
Wallace’s dad, Tommy, was 65 when diagnosed with ALS — a neurodegenerative disease where the nerve cells that control your muscles die. Two years later, Tommy passed away. ALS destroys muscles and over time it leads to a loss of mobility, loss of speech and eventually it stops the ability to breath. It’s terminal and there is no cure or effective treatment.
Wallace along with eight other cyclists will leave Verns Bar and Grill in Kingsville on June 25 at 6:30 a.m. and ride 200 kilometres around Essex County and finish at Pelee Island Winery. All funds raised from the ride go the ALS Society of Windsor-Essex.
Last year, Wallace and fellow runners Jamie Waldron and Jay Thompson ran a 50 km route from Kingsville to Windsor raising close to $18,000. This year, they decided to change it up with a 200-km bike ride.
For Wallace, an ultra-marathoner and avid cyclist, last year’s run was gruelling in temperatures reaching 30 C. But there was one thing that pulled him through those difficult moments — thinking of his dad and how much he loved nature walks.
“It took away his ability to walk first and then it ended up taking away his ability to breath,” he said. “I always thought that couldn’t have been any worse. Watching someone who devoted himself to enjoying the outdoors, to take something away that defines you is really difficult.”
When his dad was diagnosed with ALS the family turned to the ALS Society looking for answers and support. They were provided with home aids, like bumpers for the walls and corners, a wheelchair and near the end of Tommy’s life, a BiPAP machine to help him breath.
“They were there for us when we didn’t know where else to turn,” Wallace said. “They made it easier. They educated us about the disease, gave us the bare bones and they said ‘this is what’s going to happen and it’s not going to be pretty. This is what you are in for and we are going to prepare you for it the best we can.’”
In Canada, approximately 2,500-3,000 people are living with ALS; 1,000 will succumb to the disease and 1,000 will be newly diagnosed each year.
The lifespan after diagnosis is on average two to five years.
For Wallace, the 200-km ride is an opportunity to spread awareness about ALS and raise money for the society. He knows the journey will be a tough one, but nothing compared to his dad’s short one.
“I always think of my dad,” Wallace said. “I think of the last time I took him outside and the last time he actually took a breath of the outside air. For me, on the bike, the mental and physical pain is superficial you can push through it. I’m grateful that I have the ability to spin my legs.”