Kristina met Lamar Woody in high school, although it wasn’t until college when they really found their true connection. Lamar loves to tell everyone Kristina was the prettiest girl in school. Little did she know then she would not only become his wife and mother of their beautiful daughter, Natalie, but she would also become his ALS caregiver.
As a nurse for more than 11 years, Kristina has often witnessed patients and families find a sense of relief in finally getting a diagnosis. “When you can name it, it makes it a little easier to face it,” she said. “That's just not true with ALS. There is no immediate sense of hope. You don't get a list of treatment options to prolong your life. It just felt very final.”
When Lamar started to require the use of mobility assistance every day, he was forced to quit working. Kristina decided it was time to go back to work in the hospital setting as a travel nurse to help meet their financial obligations and have more days off to spend with Lamar. “Unfortunately, since I do still have to work full time, I don't feel I am the caregiver I truly could be for him,” she said.
While Kristina is grateful for her nursing experience and benefits from it as a caregiver, her priority is supporting Lamar in his ALS journey. “The challenge of being a caregiver to your spouse is once you take on that role, it's hard to separate yourself from it,” she said. She often says she has the unfortunate trifecta of responsibility: she is a full-time professional nurse, a caretaker at home, and a spouse/mom.
Caregiving is hard, no two ways about it, and Kristina knows first-hand what the saying “it takes a village” means. She understands not everyone can commit to being 100 percent invested because the demands of managing an illness like ALS can be challenging. But Kristina says she feels like they have found “the best version of ‘our village’ in our friendships, and we are so grateful for their ongoing love and support of our family.” They help with bringing meals when life gets crazy, taking Natalie to sports practices and school, and taking Lamar to appointments. “They are with us when we laugh, which we all love to do, and they are with us on the hard days when we don’t,” she added.
Kristina shares that at this point in Lamar’s journey, she’s trying to focus on providing the emotional support he needs. “If there's things I can do to physically aid in managing something related to ALS, obviously I do that. But I think for the most part I'm trying to just focus on still being Lamar's friend and still being Lamar's spouse.”
“The physical person I've always known Lamar to be isn't the same now, but he is still the everything I love,” she said. “We are still a young couple, both in our early thirties, and married for only 12 years. I can't fight time and what I know it will eventually bring. Coping with ALS is an active decision to live in the light of hope and the small blessings before us.”
Special thanks to Kristina for allowing us to share their family’s personal journey with ALS. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing more about the Woody family and their everyday life living with this disease, and we hope you will follow along and share with your family and friends.
In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, download this infographic about caregiving and share on your social platforms to support a caregiver you know. To learn more about how you can get involved in the fight against ALS, visit our website HERE.