For 40 years, Ken Chubb has lived with multiple sclerosis, the chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system, which affects about 100,000 Canadians.
And for most of that time, Chubb has been an active volunteer with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, offering support and advocacy — and his dedication and commitment were recognized when he received the BC and Yukon Division’s President’s Award last week from community services co-ordinator Debbie Irwin.
“My life is a life of service,” he said. “It’s not for accolades. This is just who I am.”
There was a time when that life of service was unimaginable — the 63-year-old was diagnosed in his early 20s, when a severe attack put him in the hospital for more than five months.
“I was really, really sick,” he said. “The MS symptoms came on so quick, they didn’t expect I was going to live.”
When he was released, he went to work with his brother in his parents’ dry-cleaning business, which wasn’t ideal for someone dealing with the disease.
“The heat of the laundry made it difficult to cope with,” he said.
When his parents sold the business, Chubb went to university, earning a bachelor’s degree in social work. He worked at a group home when institutions for the mentally disabled people were first closed, and later began working for Child Protective Services until his retirement in 2000.
Chubb was involved with Kelowna’s MS Society chapter for 12 years. He and his wife, Suzanne, moved to Creston in the late 1980s, and he got involved with the Creston support group in 1988.
He was a board member of the BC and Yukon Division for a number of years, and is currently a member of the division’s client services committee, as well as one of the main contacts for the Creston support group.
“Ken has been instrumental in connecting clients with the MS Society to assist with advocacy, support and information, as well as to assist with the navigation of the health care system and access to the MS clinic for diagnosis,” says the BC and Yukon Division newsletter. “Ken has liaised with the client services staff, helping to identify local challenges, gaps and problems with health care services, as well as assisting in making connections between local health care providers and the MS Society to facilitate more collaborative care for those living with MS in the Creston area.”
Including spouses and children, there are about 50 members in Creston support group. Thos connections are important for everyone involved.
“You’re dealing with a major loss,” said Chubb. “You’re losing your health and the things that go with it. … It’s generally a downward slide. But you make the choice to keep going with the support of family and friends.”
Chubb can’t stress enough his gratitude for his family’s support, with his wife, two children and grandchildren always ready to help however they are able.
Although he hasn’t had an attack as severe as the first one, Chubb now deals mainly with mobility and balance issues, and he’s has optic neuritis — a temporary blindness — a few times. But not of that has lessened his passion for supporting others in similar situations.
“I wish I had more time and energy,” he said. “I would like to spend more time doing home visits.”
Personal contact and support are important, and the Creston group is always interested in extra help.
“Doctors don’t have time to do anything but medical stuff,” Chubb said. “We’re always trying to recruit healthy volunteers that are focused on the cause of the MS Society, which provides support for people living with MS.”
For Chubb, that volunteer work has given him a greater purpose than simply managing his own health — he harks back to a college term, “self-actualized”, to describe how he feels.
“It’s an awesome bonus to feel that way,” he said. “I don’t go to bed at night wondering what to do the next day.”
And he’s happy to keep on helping others — all the while humbly downplaying his award.
“I feel very honoured,” he said. “It’s an honour to be able to serve. …
“I truly have found myself.”
For more information on the Creston support group, contact Ken Chubb at 250-428-7737 or Barb West at 250-428-2882.