This is a woman who doesn’t let anyone, or anything, shake her determination.
Even in the face of a debilitating disease which has turned her life upside down, Karen Jacoby has chosen to embrace her diagnosis, not let it define her, and to use each day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease.
In January, 2020, the now 34-year-old Jacoby was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a chronic disease which affects the central nervous system and can cause symptoms including extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, vision problems, and cognitive impairment. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world with more than 90,000 people living with the disease.
It’s unpredictable, episodic, and without cure.
A lifelong Leasider who was living an active, healthy lifestyle, with a successful career in the retail sector, Jacoby found herself dealing with exhaustion, partial leg paralysis, and numbness.
“There are some days,” Jacoby notes, “I can walk without a cane, and others when I have trouble standing in the shower.”
As a star athlete, she ran track and played basketball with Leaside H.S., and played and coached with Leaside Softball. She spent over 10 years in retail management, climbed the CN Tower for charity, and participated in the planting of Canadian flags outside the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre for many years.
Despite her illness, her drive to accomplish much in many areas continues. Jacoby says that she is “choosing to embrace (her) diagnosis not as a sentence but as an opportunity.” For her, the opportunity is primarily to raise awareness of MS, but also to raise funds for the MS Society of Canada.
A few months after her diagnosis, Jacoby participated in the Virtual MS walk. Choosing to walk at the Leaside track, Jacoby notes that while crossing the finish line was significantly different from in her high school track days, she found the success in crossing with her cane even sweeter.
And with the support of 42 friends and family members, Jacoby’s group captured the distinction of Top Fundraising Team. Jacoby’s personal fundraising earned her a spot in the MS International Walk of Champions as a member of Team Canada. Not stopping there, in the fall of 2020, she was selected as an Ambassador to the MS Society.
Last month, Jacoby lobbied, and succeeded, in having the federal government include World MS Day, May 30th, on their promotional health days calendar.
Jacoby has also partnered with various companies to raise awareness and funds. She designed a mask which includes the MS symbol of a red carnation, sold by the wellness company Noush (https://noush.ca). She has a coin jar set up at Drink Juice Co. on Manor Road, and last year, set up a fundraising table outside Boutique La Muse.
On May 15th and 16th from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jacoby will once again have a table outside the boutique to raise awareness and funds.
For Jacoby, Leaside has always been a community which emphasizes the importance of supporting each other. Members of Leaside United Church, where she was christened, for example, helped with accessibility renovations in her new home.
Boutique La Muse also moved Jacoby’s role from in-store to being their social media manager.
Jacoby’s days aren’t always easy. But each day, she wakes up determined to find a way to help others. No one and nothing stands in her way.