In recognition of World MS Day on May 30th, renowned Canadian photographer Caitlin Cronenberg has created a first-of-its-kind photo exhibit to showcase the journey young women face when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). With many women diagnosed in the prime of their lives, three vivacious women from across the Canada participated in the project and shared their personal stories through a new lens.
The national exhibit, titled DREAM/AWAKE, will be unveiled today in Toronto, featuring Caitlin’s visual interpretation of each woman’s personal experience with MS. The exhibit takes aim at life after diagnosis, telling a visual tale of the pivotal moment when a young woman learns she has MS and the personal journey that follows. The images demonstrate the feelings of loss – of body, family, opportunity or work – and how each woman has reclaimed her life through treatment and become a figure of inspiration for young women fighting the disease.
The women featured in my exhibit are such an inspiration to me. One of my greatest fears is losing the ability to do the things I want to do – and these women have overcome obstacles that I can only imagine
“The women featured in my exhibit are such an inspiration to me. One of my greatest fears is losing the ability to do the things I want to do – and these women have overcome obstacles that I can only imagine,” said Caitlin Cronenberg, Canadian photographer and author. “This project was an opportunity for me to tell a story that is close to my heart – and to share the emotional and physical strength of these women with a larger audience.”
Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of MS with an estimated 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians living with the disease. MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada, typically striking in early adulthood in between the ages of 15 and 40 with the average age of onset in North America being 29 years. Women are more than three times more likely to develop MS than men.
“Every woman has a different journey with MS, but what we all have in common is that with diagnosis, came an immense feeling of loss – whether it was a dream for tomorrow, or our hopes for the future,” said Ms. Himani Ediriweera, diagnosed with MS in March 2005 and project participant. “I am very fortunate to have participated in this project. After living with MS for seven years, it truly is a genuine reflection of what we have experienced and overcome represented in a way that is relevant for young women everywhere.”
“Over the past 15 years there have been great advances in the way that we treat this disease,” said Dr. Daniel Selchen, a neurologist from Toronto. “We can reduce relapses associated with MS, which can be terrifying and debilitating. We can slow the progression of the disease over the long term. Patients now have the option to treat the disease with either injectable or oral therapies. This exhibit is important because it truly captures the extent to which women can thrive while living with MS.”
Following the exhibit, Caitlin Cronenberg has graciously donated the photographs for silent auction in support of the MS Society of Canada. The MS Society of Canada provides services to people with multiple sclerosis and their families and funds research to find the cause and cure for this disease.
“MS is an unpredictable disease and afflicts young women at a time when they should be most active and hopeful about their futures,” says Dr. Riad Sherif B, President of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. “As a global leader in the treatment of MS, we are proud to support this exhibit and help to shine a light on the faces behind this disease.”
MS is often a disabling disease of the central nervous system (CNS). It occurs because the body attacks the myelin, a protective covering wrapped around the nerves of the CNS, causing lesions or scars in the CNS as demyelination occurs. The cause of MS is still unknown, though current research increasingly points to a complex interplay of environmental and possibly genetic risk factors. The most common form of the disease, relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) describes a type of MS characterized by unpredictable, but clearly defined episodes during which new symptoms appear, or existing ones get worse. These ‘episodes’ are also known as attacks, relapses, exacerbations, or flare-ups. The hallmark of RRMS is the recovery, or ‘remission’, that occurs between attacks.
About Caitlin Cronenberg
After graduating from Ryerson University in 2006 with a degree in Fashion Design, Toronto-born Caitlin Cronenberg decided to shift direction and pursue a career in photography. Her work has since been published in an assortment of publications including L’Uomo Vogue, French Elle, German Vanity Fair, Bullett, 25 Magazine, and Hello! Canada, as well as every major Canadian newspaper. In 2010 she completed and self-published her first book of photography, POSER, and is currently working on her second – The Endings.