Saturday, 3 September 2011

What is ALS Anyway?

What is ALS anyway? All I know is that it is a debilitating disease that eventually takes your life. Two to five years is what they say you have from the onset of symptoms. Mike experienced his first symptom, muscle twitching, a little over a year ago. He didn’t think much of it. Working two jobs, he was a little sleep deprived to say the least….and a little de-hydrate maybe…yah, that’s probably the problem. He just brushed off the “twitch” and carried on. Not the type to worry and never a complaint…”Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work he goes.” It was when he noticed a loss of strength in his right hand and some atrophy in his hand and forearm that he became a little concerned. After some research on the internet, he realized it could be something serious…”Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the doctor he goes.” then off to the neurologist, who delivered the bad news. Mike stopped working, caught up on some much needed sleep, changed his diet and noticed an improvement. So, when he went for a second opinion, he assumed the best. This doctor surely was going to say a mistake was made and he would be fine…not. A third and fourth opinion and the same diagnosis: ALS.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. In North America it is sometimes called "Lou Gehrig's disease" after the great baseball player who had it.  The New York Yankee died of ALS in 1941 at the age of 38. ALS is a rapidly progressive and fatal neuromuscular disease that is characterized by degeneration of a select group of nerve cells and pathways (motor neurons) in the brain and spinal cord. This loss of motor neurons leads to progressive paralysis of the voluntary muscles. The cause was unknown up until just about a week ago. We were so thrilled to hear the breaking news. The cause is a build-up of protein in the nerves in the brain and spinal column…whatever that means. It doesn’t really matter if I get it or not, just as long as it expedites the process of finding a cure.
Two of the best neurologists in Vancouver and two of the best in Toronto say Mike has ALS. But Mike remained hopeful for a misdiagnosis even after seeing four different doctors. I remember him saying something about how God was practicing medicine when those guys were in diapers. Even now, HOPE is something we cling to…a misdiagnosis, a miraculous healing, a cure…any of the above will do. But even more than hope, we cling to the God who provides the hope and trust that He will decide. Romans 12:12 says: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Oswald Chambers says in his book My Utmost for His Highest: Fill your mind with the thought that God is there. And once your mind is truly filled with that thought, when you experience difficulties it will be as easy as breathing for you to remember, “My heavenly Father knows all about this!”

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