Noah “40” Shebib spent his 22nd birthday, in 2005, in the hospital being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He describes how sensation had changed in his legs: “Hot was cold, cold was hot.” At the time he didn’t know anything about MS, except that “it sounded intimidating.” It took him three years and disease-modifying drugs to get back on his feet.
These days, he is mostly known as rapper Drake’s producer and collaborator. Working together, they’ve brought out the So Far Gone mixtape in 2009, a melange of R&B and rap, and last year’s studio album, Take Care. Their work together has been rewarded with a place on the charts, Grammy nominations and other awards.
Like Drake, Shebib is a former child actor from Toronto. In fact, Shebib is the fourth generation of his family in show biz. Starting with his great-grandmother, his family has been a part of Canadian theater, radio and film for decades. His mother, Tedde Moore was pregnant with him when she played the teacher in 1983’s Christmas Story. But showbiz isn’t the only thing that runs through the family: Tedde was diagnosed with MS two years after her son, despite having a bout with unexplained MS-like symptoms such as vision loss 15 years prior. She has damage in her optic nerve, but is otherwise doing well, Shebib says.
“MS has made me a stronger person and motivated me to find success despite it,” he says. “MS can’t stop me.” He may have initially been scared, but “now I know that I can manage it.” Nonetheless, he says he fears losing the fine motor control in his hands. “I’ve played the piano since I’ve been three, and it’s a really important part of my life.”
The most difficult things about living with MS, he says, are “explaining to people how MS works, justifying the effects of MS, and the ‘but you look so good’ syndrome. I wish people knew how unpredictable the disease is. One day I can walk five miles and the following day only 500 feet. It is very difficult for people to grasp that concept.”
He doesn’t know many young people with MS, particularly young men. “But I would like to be visible to young men who might have MS or be diagnosed with it tomorrow, so they know that they are not alone, that they can still succeed and have their dreams,” he says.
“By improving connections and knowledge about MS, we can end the disease.”