'I was afraid I was going to die': 20-year-old N.B. woman confirmed to have the mysterious neurological disease

At the age of 20, Gabrielle Cormier's world changed.

The young woman from Dalhousie, N.B. was diagnosed in April with the mysterious neurological disease that has only been found in New Brunswick.

Cormier said she started getting sick in October of 2019 but tried her best to continue studying through university. She was confirmed to have the unknown syndrome in April 2021.

“University was my dream, learning about biology, which was my major, I didn’t want to leave. It was unthinkable," says Cormier.

“I can’t read, which is a shame because I love to read. I can’t move, which is a shame because I was very active before.”

Since she was eight years old, Cormier says she had a passion for figure skating. “It was my life.”

Her symptoms include memory loss, vision problems, and the inability to stand for long periods. As a result, she must now use a cane.

“I’m trying to make a bad situation better by making my cane pretty,” she said smiling as she showed her purple cane during an interview with CTV.

During the spring, Cormier says she persisted to get back on the ice.

“The reason we went to the rink again was because I was afraid that I was going to die and I wanted to be on the ice one last time,” Cormier says.

She is one of 48 cases being investigated for the mysterious disease by the province of New Brunswick.

According to public health, 39 cases have been confirmed and nine are suspected cases. Six people have died from the disease.

The Government of New Brunswick’s website on the unknown neurological syndrome says the ages of those being investigated range from 18 to 85, making Cormier one of the youngest cases.

Steve Ellis’ father Roger Ellis, 63 of Bathurst, N.B. suddenly presented with symptoms two years ago.

After months of waiting Ellis received confirmation from Dr. Alier Marrero on Wednesday that his father is a confirmed case.

"It’s surreal,” says Ellis. “It's still a mixed bag of emotions because I knew it in my gut."

Dr. Alier Marrero is the neurologist leading the team of researchers investigating the syndrome. Their investigative work is exploring all potential causes including environmental, food, and animal exposures.

In April, the Horizon Health Network established a clinic at the Moncton hospital for patients suffering from early-onset cognitive decline, as well as those who are confirmed or suspected to have the syndrome.

Ellis is now is waiting to complete a questionnaire that will be conducted by public health, on his father’s behalf.

Meanwhile, Cormier will be completing her survey on Friday.

Though there is still much unknown about the disease, Cormier says she is relieved to now have an answer, after months of uncertainty.

“In a strange way, this is an answer because I was pretty sure they were never going to find what is wrong with me," Cormier says.

Symptoms of the mystery syndrome include rapidly progressing dementia, muscle spasms, atrophy and a host of other complications. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, has been ruled out in the New Brunswick cases.

Public health has created a website to provide updated information on the investigation that is exploring all potential causes.

As the investigation has progressed this month, Ellis says he is cautiously optimistic.