Getting Closer!

I am 10 days away from starting my walk across Saskatchewan!  My school year is all wrapped up.  It is always a little sad at the end of the year knowing that another year is gone but there is also a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.

My campaign is going very well.  I am over 70% towards my stated goal and still haven’t started the walk yet.  Also, there have been a couple of interesting developments. Some folks are concerned about my safety and well-being and as a result, have been working towards potential sponsorship so that I have a pilot vehicle, places to rest at night, and proper nutrition.  I will have a formal announcement with details once it is all in place, but isn’t that cool?

What is Huntington Disease (6)?

Quick Facts:

  1.  1 in 7000 people in Canada has HD.
  2.  1 in 5500 Canadians is at risk of developing HD.
  3.  1 in 1000 Canadians is affected by HD in some way.
  4. A direct genetic test to determine if an individual has inherited the HD gene was developed in 1993.  Most people at risk do not get tested.
  5. Huntington Disease is an autosomal dominant inheritance.  This means if you inherit the HD gene you will get the disease.


Featured Town:

Unity, SK


Unity is a town with a population of 2389 people. It started as a small settlement in 1904 and was the subject of a 2001 award-winning play about the 1918 flu pandemic.   It is 59 kilometres from Macklin, meaning that I will likely be in Unity on July 11.

Check here for a list of things to do in Unity. It is a good list.

Training Update:

I have started to limit the kilometres that I am putting on in training.  I might as well save them for July 10.

One very large upside of just walking is being able to see the countryside.  I used to run the same routes when I would be training for running events or just jogging, but I never enjoyed the scenery as much when I ran as opposed to when I now walk. Here are some pictures:

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Did You Know:

At my height (5 feet, 11 inches) on flat terrain, the horizon will be about 5 kilometres away. Therefore, in order to make it across Saskatchewan along my route, I will have to “walk to the horizon” about 140 times.

Most Listened to Song on My Playlist:

Nothing Compares – Third Day

I am going back to Third Day for this one.  For some songs, you immediately want to pick up a guitar and play along.  This is one of those songs.





I did, in fact, pick up the guitar to play this song, but instead of playing the original A, E, F#m chord progression, I switched to G, D, and Em (In fact my computer even knows I don’t like playing any other chords so it just automatically transposes for me now.) As I started playing, it reminded me of this 1998 Semisonic song.






Please visit my fundraising page at the Huntington Society of Canada.

You can also follow me on Twitter (@gshwaga). Please retweet so that my campaign updates get in front of as many people as possible.

You can also follow my event on Facebook:  @Greg’s Walk for Huntington Disease




Three Weeks!

Three weeks,  that is all I have left before setting out on my 700-kilometre hike across Saskatchewan in order to raise funds and awareness for the Huntington Society of Canada and Huntington Disease research.

It is has been some time since my last post.  Life has a way taking you on rabbit trails before allowing you back on the path again.  My last post was before the May long weekend.  That weekend I took my son to play in his club volleyball national tournament in Calgary, Alberta.  I went to sleep that Friday night and woke up with a sprained ankle in the morning.  Apparently, although no believes me, spraining your ankle while sleeping is actually a “thing; ” Yet something else to look forward to in your forties.

I was also involved in two graduations, one at my own school in Vanguard on the 26th of May and then my daughter graduated from Athol Murray College of Notre Dame on June 17th.  I am proud of Vanguard Community School and our graduating class and I am proud of my “little girl” Jessalyn.

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I did have to rest for about 10 days while my ankle healed, but eventually, I did get back out on the road and have since put in a few hikes. June has been just too crazy though and I have not been able to put on as many kilometres as I would have liked.  I will have to train as I walk somewhat, starting on July 10.

My school had a surprise for me on June 14.  Some of the senior boys asked if I could go out to the woodshop with them while they built a box for another class. I thought it was a strange request but went anyways.  While out in the shop I was called on the intercom to come to the gym.  I thought a student had gotten hurt.  When I got to the gym, the entire school was waiting for me.  Without me knowing, the students and staff had planned their own little “walk” and were sitting in the gym with backpacks on waiting for me to join them.  In total, they also raised nearly 2000 dollars for my campaign.  This, plus donations that I have already received, has put me over halfway to my goal and I’m still three weeks to the starting line.  Cool!

What is Huntington Disease (5)?

You will often hear the analogy that Huntington Disease is like having ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s at the same time.  This is mostly correct but doesn’t help much unless you know what those diseases are, and what attributes of those diseases can be found in a person that suffers from Huntington Disease. Here is the breakdown:

The full name for ALS is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. When you see that word trophic, it comes from the Greek trophikos for food or nourishment.  Sclerosis means hardening or stiffening (dying).  In the case of ALS, neurons in the brain responsible for voluntary muscle movement die. With nothing controlling them anymore, the muscles stiffen and eventually waste away.    This is the common element with HD.  Although not caused by the same neuron malfunction,  in late stage HD, you will see muscle wasting to the point where HD patients in the latter stage of their life look extremely thin, fragile, and malnourished.

Parkinson’s Disease happens when brain cells stop producing dopamine. Dopamine is necessary to carry signals between nerves in the brain.  Without it, people start to exhibit the hallmark signs of Parkinson’s: tremors, rigidity of muscles and impaired balance. Again but for different reasons, someone with HD will begin to display these same characteristics. This is the chorea or “dance” movements associated with HD.

Alzheimer’s or more specifically dementia caused by Alzheimer’s is also very HD like.  This is where an individual with HD suffers from a host of cognitive and emotional issues; everything from memory loss to forgetfulness to irritability.

So, yes, in a sense Huntington Disease can be described as having ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s all at once but I would even go further than that.  It is more like a person starts with Alzheimer’s (or dementia or even schizophrenia), then develops Parkinson’s, and then finishes off with ALS. You could even use another analogy and say that HD is like someone having a very prolonged and slow developing case of the dreaded Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (people with this disease often die within six months, whereas an individual with HD can have symptoms for 20 years or more).

All of these diseases are just plain and simple nasty!

Featured Town:

Evesham, SK

The next place I walk through after Macklin is a hamlet called Evesham.  I looked it up and it is a hamlet of 35 people. It used to be a village up until the year 2000. That is about all I could find on Evesham. Here is a picture of a church in Evesham:

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I will look to see if it still there when passing through.

This Day in Training:

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It was a great day for hiking.  The temperature was a perfect 21 degrees and there were no bugs.  My ankle held up well as I went about 8 kilometres.  On this one stretch of highway, this one hawk keeps diving at me. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, but she definitely does not want me around!



Most Listened to Song on My Playlist:

Cry Out to Jesus – Third Day

Upon hearing Third Day’s music, they became my third favourite band (Triumph and The Tragically Hip will always be my favourites). Third Day’s music always makes me feel better.  Their lyrics mean so much, and their sound is like a Christian version of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I can’t imagine a scenario where you feel worse after listening to this song.


Please Visit My Page at the Huntington Society of Canada