Mary Gyulay has been one of my life long friends. My Aunt Paula and her mother are the best of friends since they were teenagers. If you meet Mary’s mother, she’ll tell you how Mary’s brother, Leslie and I were in the ‘womb’ at the exact same time, and born just weeks apart from each other. And although I still find it hard to spell her name properly. She still decided to take a chance and let me share her story on yes supply (spell check this please).
It’s really hard when you grow up with someone, who seems perfectly healthy, but underneath it all. They are battling a life-changing illness. When Mary Gyulay was 22 she finally went to the doctor after experiencing a long list of symptoms that she thought were perfectly normal. That everyone experienced from time-to-time. Extreme tiredness, and headaches, and lack of dexterity. Battling it all alone, she thought that everyone dealt with these things. Sure, we all say we’re tired from time to time. But we really don’t know the exhaustion that goes hand-in-hand with having an auto-immune disease.
It wasn’t until Mary temporarily lost vision in one eye that she knew that something was seriously wrong. Getting the call that she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis was life-changing.
For many of us, finding out the news of having a severe disease could throw us into extreme sadness, creating an isolated life where you think that no one can understand you. Mary chose to use her struggle about a story of living with MS to empower others, and raise awareness, and use her personal story to get her ‘yes’. When she was first diagnosed, it took some time to come to terms with everything she was experiencing. But with the help and support of those around her, she dove head-first into the Annual Walk For MS and was able to raise awareness amongst her group of friends on what she was dealing with, as well as a substantial amount of funds to donate towards a worthy cause.
When it came time to go back to school at Ryerson University where she is studying Radio and Television Arts, she again decided to share her story with others working through her passion, film, to raise awareness for MS. She and Melissa Scicluna, who would soon become executive-producer. And wrote the story of a young girl. Violet, who is diagnosed with MS just before one of the biggest piano auditions of her life. Talented classmates and friends of Mary banded together to create the Viable Production team which is setting out to create more than just a film, but a brand to bring to light the struggle and lives of those living with Multiple Sclerosis.
We asked Mary to tell us her goals for the film:
I’ve heard a lot of stories about artists particularly in the MS community who have had terrible experience of people, even doctors, tell them that they have to stop doing what they love and stop doing their art, and that completely breaks my heart. That’s what sparked the motivation behind Viable.
Our goal with the film is to show that MS is an invisible disease. A lot of the time, you cant SEE the symptoms. And often the people who visually look like they’re battling MS symptoms/attacks (if someone is wheelchair-bound, or has a severe tremor) are people who have been living with it for a while and are perhaps of an older generation.
The reality of the situation, though, is that MS can happen at any age. The most common age of diagnosis is between 15 and 40 (15 is so young!). And people have been diagnosed in the past as young as 2 years old. We want to portray MS in this film mostly through Violet. That a healthy-looking, young girl with so much ahead of her can be living with a chronic illness. It’s an important point for us to raise awareness about the disease in younger generations because younger generations are fighting it just as much as older ones.
In the film, her goal is to let anyone who is suffering to know to not give up on their art, and give up on their dreams.
Mary lives the life of the story she shares and practices what she preaches. She did not let her diagnoses make her give up on her dreams, and she is now using what most people would see as a set-back to propel her forward into her dreams and promote MS awareness on an international scale. She decided to write and direct this film to connect with other people who are walking a similar journey, and it really is a reminder that. If you are set on your goals, nothing can hold you back.
How did you feel when you were first diagnosed?
When I was first diagnosed, it’s definitely a really lonely feeling. After that, I think when you’re first given the news of having a chronic illness, it’s definitely very lonely. I didn’t know like many other people don’t know, that MS affects young people. I didn’t think that there was anyone else my age going through the same thing I felt very isolated. Since MS is a silent disease, it was hard for me to express what was going on inside my body, because everything looked normal on the outside. Even going blind in one eye, people can’t see that. They look at you and everything looks normal.
When I finally got the courage to do so, researching MS and seeing all of the support in the community, that really helped me.
What is your advice for anyone who is going through a similar ordeal, or living with MS, to cope and feel empowered to face illness?
1. Once you’re comfortable with what you’re going through, look for others who are going through the same thing, and help you feel not as alone
tip: Mary used hashtag searches on Instagram and Facebook to find people in a similar situation to her online who we’re young and going through the same thing as her.
2. Look for support where you can get it- Mary took part in the MS walk where she was able to find a sense of community and meet other people with the illness.
3. If you’re still in school, don’t be afraid to ask for support when you are dealing with symptoms. Teachers and professors can be very understanding when they know what is going on. So you can often work out extensions, and additional support to get through your schooling.
Before even beginning the film production of Viable, she caught the attention of media, being featured by the likes of City TV and Much Music in her segment sharing the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis and the Fly for MS community.
The Team from Fly for MS even reached out to Mary to let the Viable team help them kick off their international flight around the world to raise awareness for MS and allow MS sufferers to live their dream by flying an in a plane over cities all over the world!
We were also lucky enough to chat with Fouad of the Fly for MS team explaining why he launched the Fly for MS mission and where they plan to go next!
What made you start to Fly for MS?
I was taking a break off of working on Wall Street. After that, I wanted to do something meaningful with my time and do something to help people. I got in touch with some of my friends, we put together the mission. I’ve spent the last 9 months behind Fly for MS.
What do you want to accomplish with Fly for MS?
With Fly for MS, This year, we want to visit 32 cities across 18 countries. Across the Caribean and North and South America, We want to provide joy for people and give them the thrill of being in the air and raise awareness for MS as it is an invisible disease.
I want to see people experience the emotions that I felt the first time that I went flying. If they are sick with MS, they have a fun chance to take a break from their daily lives and experience something new and a change from the usual.
How do you get your ‘yes’?
I get my yes seeing happy people, motivating and inspiring them. I love to do something fulfilling with my days.
Stay in the know and support the Viable film to raise awareness for MS as they move closer to their screening:
Follow on Instagram: @viablefilm
Keep up with the Fly for MS crew as they travel around the world helping and bringing joy to those with MS at:
- Hashtag #fly4moresmiles take a picture of yourself with your arms out like a plane, tag a friend nominate another pilot.
Facebook: Fly for MS