Her hair may be gone but luckily it’s the heart — and runner’s knee — that matters.
Rebecca Hathaway, an inspector with North Vancouver City Fire Department, recently had her head shaved by a member of Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, of which she is also a volunteer.
As her fellow firefighters looked upon the spectacle (“a lot of the guys here wanted to just see me shave my head”), and her own natural qualms over losing her locks gave way to a serene acceptance, she remembered why she was doing all of this.
“My biological father had (multiple sclerosis),” she tells the North Shore News. “When he was diagnosed when I was a small child they didn’t get any support, there was like a one-page pamphlet which gave them a lot of information. … Things have changed a lot now and to see the money that I’m raising is going to help support people to live with that, and then support their families, is just amazing.”
In late April, Hathaway will journey across the pond and join thousands of other long-distance runners for the annual London Marathon, which will take her and other participants around a largely flat course that winds through and around the River Thames and spans roughly 42 kilometres.
Running the marathon, which Hathaway describes as a “bucket list” milestone, as well as her forays into head shaving, along with a number of other fundraising ideas she has up her sleeve, are all part of her efforts to raise money to support research in the fight against MS.
“It kind of all fell into place really,” she says about doing the marathon and raising money to support those living with MS as well as their families. “I was like, ‘Yeah, head shave – let’s do it.’”
Hathaway recalls her father’s battle with MS, which she says left him “pretty depleted” as a young man and father. “For him, he started to have visual difficulties, he then started to have speech difficulties and then quite soon after he started to have difficulties with strength and muscle function,” she says. He passed away in 2017.
MS is an autoimmune disease which affects the body’s central nervous system and can lead to extreme fatigue, a lack of co-ordination, vision problems and other cognitive impairments. The prevalence of MS among Canadians may be one of the highest in the world, according to data from Statistics Canada, which points to an estimated 93,500 Canadians living with the disease.
Hathaway found out her ballot had been selected to run in this year’s London Marathon during the fall and she’s been training hard since then. She’s never run a full marathon before, but has a number of half marathons from year’s past under her belt.
“There’s been a few things in the last couple of years that have made me go, you know I need to crack on with my bucket list – let’s do it now,” she says.
Hathaway describes fond memories of the London Marathon – though she’s never run it herself. Her stepfather was an avid runner, and she remembers as a young child darting around London on the underground with her mother and brother in tow as they sought to catch glimpses of him along the route.
“I always thought if I’m going to do a marathon I want to do the London Marathon. It’s really iconic, the route is amazing – at one part you pass Buckingham Palace and you run across Tower Bridge,” she says.
Hathaway has been raising money for MS-UK, a charity dedicated to empowering people living with multiple sclerosis, as she readies herself for the marathon.
She’s jubilant as she described having already “smashed the $5,000-mark” when it comes to her fundraising, especially since she only set out to raise $3,500.
“I was absolutely stoked,” she says, adding that these days there are more treatments and supports in place for people with MS than ever before.
“There’s some great research that’s out there. … For people with MS here, they have some of the best medical neurologists and researchers in the world, which is amazing.”
For those interested in donating to Hathaway’s MS fundraising campaign, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/rebeccahathawayisrunningformsandbacon.
Asked what her biological father would say about her charitable endeavours, Hathaway says she thinks he’d be proud.
“I think he’d be proud I’m out there supporting others to get that help that he didn’t have,” she says.