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Inaugural walk spreads awareness about condition

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Participants in the Great Strides Walk for Cystic Fibrosis depart the Kin playpark in Hillside. Dozens of people participated in the walk.

Local residents banded together in the quest to find a cure for cystic fibrosis (CF) during Estevan's first-ever Great Strides Walk on May 10.

Estevan's Kinsmen and Kinettes clubs hosted the event. More than 50 people participated, and raised $2,640 for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Mallory Oleshko was the top fundraiser. She brought in $665.

Participants walked about a kilometre through the Hillside subdivision. The Kin playpark in Hillside served as the start-finish line.

Local residents Katie Dunville and Kasey McIntyre spoke to walkers on how CF has affected their lives since a family member was diagnosed with the disease five years ago.

“Your entire family dynamics change,” said Dunville. “You learn a new normal. When things like this happen, you learn the new meaning of hope, prayers and faith.”

CF is a multi-system disease, Dunville said, and it mainly affects the lungs and the digestive system. In the lungs, where it is most severe, a build-up of thick mucus causes respiratory problems. Mucus and protein build up in the digestive tract, making it difficult to digest and absorb nutrients and food.

It can be difficult to digest fats from proteins, she said. CF can also cause vitamin deficiencies, and a progressive loss of lung function.

“Individuals with CF must take a daily intake of double the amount of calories of someone else their age,” said Dunville. “The huge challenge is when you're full, and you don't feel good, for obvious reasons, you need to eat.”

A five-year-old will take a minimum of nine enzymes per day, depending on their food intake, plus numerous vitamins and supplements, Dunville said. Physiotherapy is needed for the lungs to keep mucus moving.

“It is a good day when you are not on antibiotics or the nebulizer, and it's a good day if you can go to school and play outside,” said Dunville.

A common cold can be fatal, she said

Rita Steiner, who is the regional representative for Saskatchewan for Cystic Fibrosis Canada, noted that she had a son with CF. Her son was diagnosed at 2 1/2 months of age. The early diagnosis helped get him started on an early treatment, before the harmful affects of CF kicked in.

“Getting our son on a proper, high-calorie diet with enzymes and vitamins, to help with the digestion and absorption, meant that he would be able to develop and grow at a normal rate,” Steiner said.

Dunville, McIntyre and Steiner noted that life expectancy for a person with CF has grown exponentially. In the early 1960s, most children with CF passed away before they could enter Kindergarten. Now the median life expectancy in Canada is 49.7 years, which is one of the best in the world.

But it remains the most common fatal inherited genetic condition affecting young Canadians.

“The battle against the disease is far from over,” McIntyre said. “No matter how aggressive the treatment, every year, Canadian children and young adults die from this horrible disease.”

This year marked the 50th year in which CF has been the official cause for Kinsmen and Kinettes in Canada.


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