After a lifetime of participating in and leading two-a-day practice sessions, as a running back at the University of Alabama and the NFL, and later becoming a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL, Kerry Goode knew something was wrong when he couldn’t pick up a box.
“It only had a few things in it, so it really wasn't that heavy, and I was struggling really hard to pick that box up. And so that made me get in the car and go to the doctor to see what's going on,” Goode said.
Six months later, he was diagnosed with ALS.
“It's one of those things where, if you're waiting for test results and the doctor calls you: they either will tell you, it’s negative over the phone; but if they tell you to come in, that's going to be a whole different case,” he said.
When Goode got the call on a Friday to come in to discuss the test results the following Monday, he said, he knew it was ALS.
Goode had spent the previous year helping his former Alabama teammate, Kevin Turner, raise money and awareness after Turner had been diagnosed. That advocacy on behalf of his teammate cued him into what was happening to his own body.
“Little did I know, during that time when I was helping him, I was fighting for my own life. So here I am,” Goode said.
Goode says one of the biggest challenges of living with ALS is watching the slow deterioration of his body and the loss of his ability to do things like tend to his yard.
“I'd gone from being a strength and conditioning coach, I could bench press 400, squat eight [hundred], to I can't pick up a glass of water. And now I can't pick up a pencil. That can be hard to take,” he said.
“Other challenges, just not being able to do anything. And I like to get outside and work in the yard, and now you look at my well-manicured lawn that's not manicured anymore. So there's a lot of areas where this disease pops up and makes you very angry,” he added.
Goode talked about the impact ALS has had on his immediate family. His wife, Tanja, quit her job to become a caregiver, while their five teenaged and young adult children are adjusting to the brutal reality of ALS.
“As a parent, you could see the wheels turning,” he said. “But then you know as a child that their world is being ripped apart.”
Goode wants to use what he called “somewhat of a little celebrity there” from his life in college and NFL football to help raise awareness and money for the fight against ALS. He spoke about the financial challenges that families living with ALS face and the physical burden of visiting clinics for medical care.
“Getting to clinic is an all-day ordeal,” he said.
“If you're living three, four hours away, you're up 3:00, 4:00 in the morning just to get there by eight o'clock. And I only live 45 minutes away, and I know that's a challenge just for me. I can only imagine having to get up that early and drive, and then you're exhausted as a patient. And your caregiver is also exhausted because they had to get up and get you dressed, and feed you,” he added.
Goode spoke to the way that his faith helps him in his fight.
“I think more people are concerned about my situation than I am. Hey, I just take it as it comes and keep the bus moving. When it runs out of gas, it's out of gas. Somebody else go get -- fill it up, keep driving,” he said.