ALS: A Love Story, by Caitlin Bellina

This is my “ALS: A Love Story.” It’s about my husband, Matt Bellina.

I first me Matt in August of 2002 when we were both Virginia Tech. Matt thought I was a “drunk college girl” (I was not) and gave me dead flowers out of a dumpster. I couldn’t remember his name I was so flustered by this cute boy that I referred to him as “the hot one” for a week until we met up again.

Funny to think that’s how we started. Now, we have been in each other’s lives for over 15 years. Matt was officially diagnosed with ALS in April of 2014, so our family is coming up on four years of living with the disease.

Our life with ALS is made a little bit easier because of Matt’s inability to accept his diagnosis as a roadblock. He is very much in this fight, and mostly for others dealing with terminal illnesses, ALS and otherwise. Of course, his humor shines through most, lifting us all up when things don’t go according to plan in our day-to-day life. With ALS, that can happen quite a bit.

Before our diagnosis – Matt surprised me one night by having a friend drive him from campus to my townhouse. He crept under my window and started playing his harmonica until I came outside. And now, after our diagnosis – I have so many moments I cherish with Matt. Like when I come downstairs from putting Pax, our youngest son, to bed and see him cuddled up with our older boys, JP and Kip, reading a bedtime book, or discussing the day, or talking about God. It’s those times where Matt is just being a good dad to our boys, that really get me.

Matt is my heart. I do most everything in my life with his voice in the back of my head. If it’s something I know he wouldn’t be proud of, I know it’s not a good idea. I appreciate his understanding. I am not the easiest person to live with, but he sticks with me. He puts up with my moods and frustrations and still loves me, through it all.

On our first Valentine’s Day together, we promised not to get each other anything. I stayed true to that pact, and got him nothing. He made me a handmade card (I still have it), a giant balloon stuffed with fun things, and other trinkets. I looked like a chump. Let’s just say he’s the romantic in the family!

When it comes to ALS, everything in life becomes weird. Things you never thought you would do, are now every day occurrences. You have to laugh. and love. You have to love and grow together through it all, or you are going to fall apart. And for us, to live with this disease, that falling apart simply wasn’t an option.