Our life became a surrealistic nightmare in November 2006 when Jerry was diagnosed with ALS. Although I knew rationally that I had to accept this challenging new reality, all I wanted to do was wake up to a new day in which Jerry had been given a different diagnosis.
As I began to learn about ALS and what the diagnosis would mean for Jerry, I worked to find meaning in the experience. Jerry and I had had some experience with coming to terms with a frightening diagnosis. Fifteen years earlier, Jerry was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a pervasive cancer of the lymphatic system. At that time, we had focused our energy on creating a positive outcome from the brutal chemotherapy regiment by embracing our life-affirming philosophy with even greater intensity. This philosophy - of shaping and reshaping meaning for ourselves, of savoring the sweetness of each day to its fullest extent, and of expressing gratitude for our many blessings – became an integral part of our daily lives and remains so to this day.
So I worked to accept the ALS challenge in a similar way, but how do you find meaning in this experience? The medical community offers no cure, no hope. There were no treatments to coordinate, no positive outcomes to visualize. My spirit could not accept the reality of a life expectancy for Jerry of 2-5 years. I needed to find a way to make sense of this nightmare.
In March 2007, we discovered the potential of receiving stem cell therapy at Eden Laboratories in Belize. This Eden therapy opportunity offered us hope for arresting the symptoms of ALS when there was no other hope. I was excited by the possibility of slowing the progression of ALS, but hesitant about a treatment that was not approved in the United States. The FDA does not yet approve of stem cell treatment for humans, even though results from stem cell research hold enormous potential not only for neurological diseases like ALS and Parkinson’s Disease, but also for AIDS, Diabetes, and Hepatitis C.
We decided to go to Eden Laboratories and to work towards positive advances in Jerry’s health with the help of stem cell treatments. In the weeks since Jerry has returned home from Belize, I have continued to focus my attention on the beauty and satisfaction in every single day. Jerry and I work each day to fulfill his regiment of diet, vitamins, and exercise and we celebrate the small triumphs along the way. We are nurtured and sustained by a wonderful support system of friends and family, most especially by our children, Jake, Johnny, and Laurie, whose love and laughter is immeasurable. The meaning of these events continues to unfold for us, but we are able once again to live the way we have dedicated our lives: celebrating every day and expressing our gratitude for what we have been given.