The family of a young Ottawa woman diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is hoping the kindness of strangers will help her live out one of her dreams while she still can.
Stephanie Christiansen, a 28-year-old mother of three young children, was diagnosed with ALS in late October -- a year-and-a half after first meeting with doctors to help with cramps in her arms and legs.
“I went from being able to run and to chase my kids around the house and the yard and playing soccer with my kids… to being in a wheelchair and having a walker,” she told CTV Ottawa on Monday.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that typically causes patients to lose their ability to move, speak, swallow and breathe.
Most people with ALS are diagnosed later in life. According to the ALS society of Canada, 80 per cent of people with the disease die between two and five years of the diagnosis.
“Certainly it's devastating for anyone to be given a diagnosis of ALS, but particularly in the young patients when they’re at a stage in their life where they’re starting a family and starting a career,” said Dr. Ari Breiner, a neurologist with the Ottawa Hospital.
So far, doctors have not given Christiansen a clear prognosis.
“(The doctors) can’t tell me anything,” Christiansen said. “They can't tell me if I have a year, five years (or) 10 years.”
“I can't promise my 7-year-old daughter that I’m going to walk her down the aisle.”
Christiansen says her three children -- Riley, Caden and Hunter-- are too young to understand what’s going on, but she wants to make as many good memories while she still can.
Family and friends are now trying to give Christiansen an experience she’s always dreamed of: a family trip to Disneyland.
In just seven days, a GoFundMe page has raised more than $18,000 to go towards the dream trip, and to help the family cover some of their ongoing health care costs.
“Taking her to Disney, making her dream comes true, is definitely something really close to our hearts,” said Florence Hall, Christiansen’s sister-in-law and the person who set up the crowdfunding page.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Joanne Schnurr