I was diagnosed with ALS during my senior year of college at the University of Oregon, on October 25th, 2016. Despite having a rather fast progression and struggling to simply walk to class, take notes and much more, I finished out the year strong and actually won Sports Business Student of the Year in my class.
Don’t get me wrong… ALS has been an absolute detriment in my life. This disease has presented the most difficult physical and mental challenges that I never could have imagined were even possible, especially at my age. I’ve witnessed the damage it has done to my wife, family and friends as they’ve watched me progress over the past three years from a young, thriving 21-year-old to a now 24-year-old, paralyzed young man who is dependent on a ventilator and confined to a wheelchair.
ALS has taken away my ability to do so much. I could go on and on about the ugly, like how I’m typing this using my eyes in a hospital bed as I fight my first battle with pneumonia.
But I don’t just want to write about all the bad that ALS has done in my life. In a lot of ways, it has been a blessing in disguise. ALS has shown me how important the little things are in life. It has taught me to not dwell on the things that I can no longer do, but to celebrate the wins every day that I still have the ability to achieve. It has helped me value the close relationships that I have with the people that I love most. It has taught me how to be vulnerable and how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It has given me purpose in living every day to the fullest and leaving my mark in this life. It has given me the courage to fight for thousands of others and their families who suffer from ALS.
A few months after graduation, on September 8th, 2017, I married my middle school sweetheart and the love of my life, Bella. She’s stuck by my side through this tough journey and takes care of me every day. I’m very lucky to have her in my life. I was able to walk down the aisle with her, dance with her, and we even went on a beautiful honeymoon to Hawaii. So many memories that I will never forget. Even so, I’ve had a deep battle with depression and social anxiety because of what ALS has done to my life. There were moments where it felt like nothing would ever get better. I felt like I was sinking into a deeper hole, day by day, with no thought of how I was going to get out. Luckily, I have an amazing support system in friends and family that have helped me get out. I finally feel like my normal, driven and motivated self again. It’s hard to lose your identity as a person and feel lost, without a purpose in your life. But looking at the bright side of things and being grateful for every single day that you are alive is the recipe for success and happiness, in my eyes. I’m ecstatic that I was able to overcome this and look at it as a positive milestone along my journey. The ALS community is filled with so many fighters and families that are so helpful in providing advice and resources. And finally, the donors of this cause have given me hope that we will see an end to this disease.
Keep fighting with us! Don’t ever give up on us, because we are fighting every single day and need your courage and strength to get to the finish line of ending ALS. I hope to eventually attend an Augie’s Quest event where we will be celebrating a cure. I’ll even throw a few shots down my feeding tube to show you how excited I am that the fight is over.