Meet the recipients

Christine Rondeau

Christine’s health problems began at a very young age. After being diagnosed with Diabetes mellitus type 1 at age 10, within a very short period of time she began experiencing problems with her eye sight. By the age of 21, Christine’s kidneys began to fail. Over the next 10 years, Christine’s kidney failure progressed very slowly, she experienced severe swelling in her legs and was prescribed diuretics. Christine was in her late 30s when she reached stage 4 kidney failure and was referred to a nephrologist at the Ottawa Hospital. Over the next 3 to 4 years, the swelling in Christine’s lower extremities became increasingly worse until she could barely walk and began to experience difficulty breathing. Her health problems started to take a giant toll on her life. Her reduced mobility and depleted energy level caused her to miss a great deal of work and she could no longer do the activities she loved so much, such as Christmas shopping. At age 42, Christine progressed to stage 5 kidney failure and she was told that she would need to go dialysis.

In January 2013, Christine was placed on a multiple transplant list to receive a kidney as well as a pancreas. This past June, she began home hemodialysis. After meeting the home dialysis team at the Riverside Campus, Christine voiced her interest in joining a gym to improve her overall health. However, after being off work for the past 12 weeks, the possibility of paying for a membership seemed far off. The team then told her about Alive to Strive, and soon after Christine received a six-month gym membership, in addition to 8 weeks with a personal trainer.

It has been two months since Christine began working with her personal trainer—an experience she really enjoyed. She has begun to feel much stronger and has a great deal more energy. Christine also has the support of her friends, they motivate each other to go to the gym and go for walks around her neighbourhood. Christine also plans to take part in the 5 km walk/run as part of the 2014 Alive to Strive Race day.

Michel Genereux

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Michel has lived with Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare disease that attacks the kidney’s filtering system, his entire life. First diagnosed at age 14, Michel is not the only one in his family who is affected by this hereditary form of kidney disease. His brother, father and grandfather all live with the disease.

Michel first began hemodialysis at the age of 18. After a year and a half of travelling back and forth from the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus, Michel received a kidney from his mother. One year later, the kidney failed and he started back on dialysis. Michel subsequently spent the next 13 years on hemodialysis. During this time, he experienced ups and downs with his health, including hyperparathyroidism that caused him to experience severe pains in his legs that limited his mobility and forced him to leave his job.

Despite living with these difficulties, Michel was blessed with the arrival of his three beautiful children: his daughter Kayla (age 13), and two sons Christian and Alexander (age 3 and 2, respectively). His children marked a turning point in his life. Michel realized that he wanted to be around to see his children grow up, and decided to make a change in his life. After speaking with the nurses at the hospital, Michel knew he needed to get back in shape in order to have the best chance possible with a transplant. Last April, he was contacted by “Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project”  and shortly after received a six-month gym membership. Two months have already passed and Michel says that going to the gym has given him the energy to do things he hasn’t done in years, such as climb the stairs without being winded, walk for longer distances with little leg pain, and play with his children. He is even going back to work after being on medical leave for the past three years.

Without Alive to Strive, Michel does not think he would be in the same place he is today. Not only is he physically stronger, but he has better self-esteem and a much more positive outlook on life, “Like with any disease, you have to stand up and say you are not going to let this take over your life, you have to fight back, he explained.” For Michel, Alive to Strive have given him much more than a gym membership, they have given him his life back.

Diana Aiello

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Diana Aiello is our Race Champion for 2013. She really lives up to that title. She has been working hard on her health over the last months, and she is a true inspiration for people living with kidney disease. In 3 months, she lost 23 pounds and 20 inches. Here is her story…

In 1992, Diana, 21 years old at the time, was diagnosed with IGA nephropathy. Over the years, she lived with her disease. Working as a phlebotomist in a walk-in clinic, she enjoyed life and tried to live as normally as possible. Diana got married at the age of 32 years old, and the couple welcomed a beautiful daughter Joleen, who is now 10 years old. In 2002, her kidney functions decreasing, she had to stop working and eventually in 2004, she started dialysis. A year later, she had the chance to receive a kidney transplant. But unfortunately, the surgery didn’t go as planned, and eventually, the transplant was declared unsuccessful. Diana had to go back on dialysis, until 2010. The peritoneal dialysis didn’t work for her anymore. She then turned to nocturnal hemodialysis, which made her life more manageable, especially as a wife and a mom. And then, by talking with the nurses, she heard about a woman in Ottawa who is also living with a chronic kidney disease. This woman, Marie-Eve Chainey, is still going to university, is training and is a great athlete, and she is helping other people! That is also how Diana found out about the Alive to Strive fitness grant program. She says that this woman’s story really inspired her. She then decided to apply for the grant. After receiving it in August 2012, she immediately started to train at The Athletic Club, working hard with her trainer for the first 3 months, and then keeping up the good work with her year-long membership. She describes her experience as a grant recipient as life-changing. “I feel like a different person. I have more energy, my head is clearer, I have more drive. I am happier. I use to put things off all the time before. My social life is better. It changed my whole world.”  And those benefits are also improving her relationship with her daughter. Like any patient on dialysis, she lost her muscle mass over the years. Her training helped her regain muscle mass, and she now enjoys going on bike rides or for walks around the neighbourhood with her daughter. Diana also mentions that in small details of everyday life, like picking things up (such as boxes of supplies for hemodialysis), she feels stronger and independent. She doesn’t have to rely on other people.  Those wonderful results didn’t come out of the blue. Diana started her training by hitting the gym 5 days a week, doing cardio, weightlifting, yoga, attending Zumba classes and going to the pool. She also adds that she is now more conscious of her eating habits, helped by her trainer. During the same period, she joined the PEER support group. She enjoyed sharing her experiences with others living the same life, and she was happy to tell them about her success with the grant.

Recently, she was written off the transplant list. “It was hard”, she says. But Diana is truly a positive, inspiring woman. She has new goals for herself now. “I’d like to get fit and have a longer life for my little girl. She is my life and what I live for.” She adds: “Marie-Eve’s story inspired me and still does. I wanna do more.”

Hélène Lavoie

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Hélène Lavoie is one of our latest grant recipients. She has been living with kidney disease for many years now, and recently was able to receive a kidney transplant. Here is her story.

Hélène Lavoie found out that she had kidney disease many years ago.  She kept on living a somehow normal life, working in schools as an educational assistant, helping kids with special needs on the autism spectrum. She always was eating well, walking every day, trying to relax as much as possible evenings and nights. But her kidney functions kept decreasing, to a point where she was forced to quit her job, and stay home. Dialysis was just around the corner… That took a beating on her moral. But Hélène stayed positive. She was convinced by a friend to apply for the fitness grant program of Alive to Strive. She didn’t want to apply at first, thinking that some people might need it more than she did. But the recent decrease of her health, her professional life drastically changing, she decided to give it a shot… and she was chosen. Even before she applied for the grant, she was volunteering a few hours here and there for the Alive to Strive Race. She really believed in the cause. As a new grant recipient, she started to exercise more, making her way through a stronger body, a better health. It really brought her desire to re-appropriate her life and her strength. Supported by friends and by her daughter, she even decided to walk the 1K at the Alive to Strive Race, on April 28th 2013. “Receiving this grant and participating in the Alive to Strive Race in April gave me hope. I felt a sense of belonging and community. I was not alone, and I realized that we are many battling for the same cause,” reflected Hélène. On this special day, she walked side-by-side with a long-time friend of hers, who decided to give her one of his kidneys. What an incredible and inspiring story! So, in May 2013, she received her new kidney, and is now a new woman, with much more energy. She enjoys every single day that she has the privilege to live, saying that the fitness grant has greatly contributed to give her the extra push that she needed to be well prepared for the transplant. It certainly also did a major difference in her recovery after the surgery. Helene is of course a strong believer of taking care of her body, making good choices when it comes to nutrition and exercising daily. Her new life as a transplant patient is now on the right track. “When we receive such a gift, like the kidney donation or the fitness grant from Alive to Strive, we must work hard to honor and recognize these incredible people who believe in the gift of life,” added Hélène.

Caleb Lewis

P Caleb Lewis at the gym 2

Caleb Lewis is our race champion for 2012. He received is fitness grant in March 2012, being the first recipient of the Alive to Strive program. He has been hitting the gym ever since. Here is his story…

Caleb was born with undersized kidneys, which shut down when he was twelve. He received a kidney transplant in 2001, but unfortunately it failed two years later. He’s been on dialysis ever since as he awaits another transplant. He works in Ottawa for a parking company, and being sedentary most of the day didn’t help him feel good, physically or mentally. Caleb has been in a relatively good shape most of his life, despite his kidney disease. But dialysis made him lose a lot of weight, a lot of muscle mass. Applying for the grant, as well as receiving support from his family and the Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project, helped him set goals for himself. He wanted to improve his overall life. He says that the past year (2012), since he received the grant, has been a life-changing year for him. He accomplished most of his goals, in terms of health, finance, personal and professional. Some of his achievements are gaining 15 pounds of muscle mass, meeting new people, working more. Caleb says that since he started going to the gym, he feels more upright, ready to go, early in the morning. He does his hours at the job, and heads up to the gym right after.  This routine of being more active as made him able to last throughout the day. “I hope that people realize that going in a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t do them any good.” He also adds that going to the gym brought even more than better health to his life: he met his girlfriend Marie at the gym! Caleb truly thinks that his supporting girlfriend, sister, brother-in-law and nieces play a big role in his motivation.  His sister Natasha raised a lot of money for the 2012 edition of the Alive to Strive Race. His brother-in-law Sean is incredibly supportive of Caleb’s efforts to be healthier. Caleb’s nieces, Hannah and Holly, play a very important role in his life. He wants to get fit and be healthy to be able to keep up with them as they grow.

“I am happy to be a model for other dialysis patients. Once I am fitter I will be happy to help as much as possible this organization which has given me so much”, says Caleb Lewis.

Mohamed Ahmed

Mohamed is a full-time college student in business. He suffered from spontaneous kidney failure in August of 2009, and started dialysis in October of that same year. He was in his early twenties at that time. Living with a kidney disease, as well as being on dialysis, is quite a life-changing challenge. For young people, as for older adults, it can take a toll on your morale. But despite these setbacks, after 3 years of feeling slowed down and sluggish, Mohamed decided to get back on track. With the help of the Alive to Strive Foundation, he started a journey on a new path, where his disease is not going to hold him back. “I’m going to do what I want to do.” Being a grant recipient from the Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Program, he now goes to the gym as much as possible. After my training, “I sleep properly, I am more energetic, I am more focused. I kind of feel like my old self.” This young gentleman, now 25, is enjoying his new self by investing his regained energy on his future. There are “so many things I want to do. I want to travel.” His advice to young people living with kidney disease: “Don’t let it stop you. You can still do what you want. It is how well you plan it.”

David Presley

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David Presley is a newly retired man from the food concession industry. He travelled across Canada for 45 years working in that field. He and his wife are both past Presidents of the Central Canada Exhibition Association, also known as the Super Ex. Since November 2007, he was diagnosed with a kidney disease, and he has been on dialysis since then. He is still waiting for a kidney transplant. Over the years, he has been an active volunteer with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, trying to raise awareness for organ donation. He says that over the years, the nurses, doctors and other staff members at the dialysis unit have won his praise. Also living with diabetes, and like many other people living with kidney disease, David struggles with other health problems, such as back pain. He was recently chosen as one of the grant recipients with the Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Program. Being honest, he says that at first, he faced some «gymtimidation». He was scared, and was not too sure about this program. With now more than 20 training sessions behind him (as of March 2013), he says: «It’s growing on me». He had the chance to meet Becky, his trainer at Vitality Fitness in Kemptville, and says that she helped him overcome his fear. “She’s good and understanding”. With the help of Becky, he now foresees, in a couple of weeks, to go to the gym on his own, working out by himself. Is he feeling some improvement on his health?  Indeed, yes. “My legs are getting stronger, I lost 6 pounds. I recommend it (the Kidney Fitness Program)”. His advice to feel comfortable and to get the motivation: “Choose a gym and a trainer that really suits your personality.” Aside from the benefits on his health, he also mentions that being a part of this program, going out to the gym, and working with people that understand your condition, doesn’t make you feel like such an outsider. Moreover, showing up every week, despite his disease, has earned him admiration from other people there. That certainly helps to boost your morale.

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