'A Canadian way to fight back': Man with multiple sclerosis to portage from Toronto to Montreal for MS research
TORONTO -- A Montreal man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis is set to portage 700 kilometres in order to raise money for MS research.
At the break of dawn Thursday, Félix Jasmin and his team are set to embark on Le Grand Portage, an 18-day canoe-camping expedition from Toronto to Montreal via Ottawa.
"I thought that portaging a canoe is quite a Canadian way to fight back at a disease, and it hasn't been done yet, not that I know of," Jasmin told CTV's Your Morning on Monday.
Money raised from the trip will benefit the MS research projects led by Dr. Jack Antel of McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital and Dr. Alexandre Prat of the University of Montreal's Health Centre. Antel and Prat are planning on using the funds to build partnerships with Toronto institutions, such as the BARLO MS Centre at the Toronto-area St. Michael's Hospital.
Last year, the Le Grand Portage was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Jasmin was still able to raise $370,000.
"It really got anchored in people's calendar and it grew in momentum and I'm hoping to do the same this year with building momentum," he said.
An avid Habs fan and canoer, the young father of three first started to feel symptoms back in 2015, but doctors couldn't figure out what it was at the time.
"I start not feeling well and I see a bunch of doctors in Montreal doing tests and everything seems to be normal," he said.
Four years later, Jasmin started to lose vision in his right eye and developed bladder issues and difficulty balancing. He finally received his diagnosis in October 2019.
"Surprisingly, the first feeling I had was relief. Relief that I had not been crazy for four years," he said. "It was quickly taken over by fear, by anger, by sadness."
Almost immediately after his diagnosis, Le Grand Portage was born.
"My wife and I met, and we decided to fight back at it. And our way to fight back was through research and research needs way more funding than we have," Jasmin said.
This year, organizers hope to raise $300,000 and are inviting all Canadians from coast to coast to participate in Le Grand Portage virtually on Oct. 17.
"All the viewers, wherever you might be, you can do your own version of Le Grand Portage, whether it's walking, running, writing or dancing," Jasmin said.
Jasmin also offered some advice to Your Morning host Lindsey Deluce, who will also be carrying a canoe for one of the legs of Le Grand Portage.
"It's really not about strength. My wife can really out-portage as me because it's all in your head. So, I'm convinced you're going to do fantastic," he said.