BY PRIYANKA KETKAR
Lakes District News
Fundraising efforts are underway for a father, military veteran, and former North Peace smoke jumper, Patrick Joseph Caden, who was diagnosed with the rare and incurable condition of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) this year.
In October 2020, Caden, was discovered to have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was given a year, maybe two, to live. As a 42-year-old with a 12-year-old daughter, this news was devastating.
ALS is a progressive nervous system disease which impacts nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing gradual loss of muscle control.
“I noticed about a year and half ago that something was going on with my hands; I was helping my dad build a dock at our cabin and I was having a hard time hanging on to the drill. It got to the point where I couldn’t sign the safety sheet at work and I was always ducking out so no one would notice that I hadn’t signed the sheet,” said Caden, who was working in Kitimat at that point and had to soon quit.
At first, Caden thought he just needed to work on improving his lifestyle, eat healthy, exercise but soon things started to get more severe and Caden started withdrawing from his family. It wasn’t until his mother pushed him to go see a doctor that Caden realized how much his condition had worsened.
“My doctor told me he thought it was this minor thing where my body was making too much iron but he wanted me to go see a specialist just in case. I went to Vancouver to see a specialist and they ran a bunch of tests, poking needles into me and taking blood. After they did the test I met with the doctor and he said you have ALS,” said Caden.
Caden had no idea of what ALS was and when he found out, he was shaken up by what it meant for his future.
“She told me it was incurable so I asked her how long do I have to live and she said a year, maybe two years,” he said.
Rheanna Robinson, Caden’s sister, told Black Press Media of the current state Caden is in.
“Pat struggles physically in very serious ways,” she said. “He has lost 95 per cent upper body mobility and needs help with a lot of things but he perseveres. He remains utterly positive and is remarkably resilient in the face of such tragic adversity.”
Instead of resigning to his fate, Caden immediately began researching ALS, when he came across a shocking discovery and found a connection between military service and ALS. Service members are twice as likely to eventually develop ALS as non-military serving Canadians.
Caden isn’t upset about this discovery since there wasn’t any information about a correlation between ALS and military service, back when he signed up. “I didn’t sign up for this disease and to die this way. I was proud to sign up to serve and protect my country.”
While researching, Caden also came across a man from Edmonton, who has ALS and is involved with a stem cell treatment in Germany. He has been to Germany four times already and has seen a lot of improvement in his motor functions.
“When he first started he was like me, he couldn’t pick up a pen anymore; now he is unloading firewood out of his truck,” said Caden.
Robinson is extremely grateful that her brother discovered this treatment.
“Him learning about the stem cell treatment has really been an important opportunity for hope, and hope is a very powerful thing. Him knowing that there could be something that could not only prolong his life but also reverse some of the detrimental impact that ALS already has had, is something that we have to really embrace and try and move forward with,” she said.
For Caden, having this hope and especially the support of his family and friends has been really important.
“My whole family, my daughter, her mom, her mom’s family, as well as my close friends, have done so much for me. If I didn’t have family and friends and all the people helping me, I would be having a much tougher time. I don’t know how people with ALS could make it alone,” he said.
Caden’s close friend Sean Kinsley is now organizing a fundraiser to raise the money to fund Caden’s treatment on the Go Fund Me website. The fundraiser is titled “The Pat Affect: ALS is just part of his journey…” and already has managed to collect over $14,000.
“What I would like to get out there is that Pat has always been there for me and he has always come through for everyone in his life; he is the most generous guy. He is the strongest guy I have ever known; he is so skilled and has always shared those skills in helping others without asking for anything in return. So I hope everyone sees his story; all his friends from the past, and maybe they will help him out now,” said Kinsley.
Caden, who grew up in Smithers and now lives in Prince George, has always had a strong affinity to the North and its people, according to his sister. In his days spent in the Bulkley Valley, Caden deeply appreciated the closeness of the community and is grateful he was raised in Smithers. He intends to donate the proceeds of any remaining funds from fundraising to the Royal Canadian Legion to assist veterans suffering from severe and prolonged mental or physical illness.