A Thank You to ALS

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Mallory Marrs is a freshman at Hanover College in southern Indiana. She is very involved in activities such as Dance Marathon, cross country, and she is the Editor in Chief for the Odyssey Online. She wrote this article in memory of her uncle, who passed away in 2006 after his battle with ALS, and is happy she could honor him in this way.

I decided to do a quick visit home overnight the other day, and I was packing up last-minute items. I was looking over my dresser to make sure I didn't miss anything, then something red caught my eye. It took me a minute to realize what it was. It was my ALS Association bracelet, with the phrase "never give up" on it. I had to stop for a minute and hold it. I couldn't think of the last time I wore it or seen it, but it popped up on my dresser as I was packing up to leave for school for a few weeks.

I am a big believer in signs; how objects are placed into our lives at a certain time for a certain reason. I fully believe this bracelet with my motto was placed on my dresser at this time for a reason. The last few weeks of college have been a challenge. I was faced with unexpected disappointments, stress from keeping up with new schoolwork, and the pressure to live up to expectations. While usually, I thrive under these circumstances, the past few weeks had not lived up to my personal expectations and had me feeling like my usual self.

My uncle, Jeff Dunn, was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2003, and was taken away from us in 2006. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a disease that affects the nervous system by weakening muscles and impacting physical function. It quickly deteriorates the person affected, making them almost unrecognizable to their loved ones.

Jeff got diagnosed with ALS when I was about seven years old. When you’re seven, and you’re told that your uncle is dying from a disease your mind can’t even begin to comprehend, it doesn’t really affect you. As the years progressed, Jeff became sicker and sicker, and it was tougher to ignore. I soon became scared to be around him because I was scared of catching whatever he had. It was horrible to see the man I used to color, play, and adventure with becoming someone I didn’t recognize.

Jeff passed away in 2006, after battling for three years. It was a quick ending to a long journey; my family saw him three weeks earlier, then he was gone. Looking back at it almost 10 years later is still difficult, no one likes to think of their loved ones dying, but also it’s been a time to be thankful ALS came into my life.

I want to thank ALS for coming into my life. Yes, you did take away my loved one but thank you for allowing me to be exposed to this terrible disease. Thank you for giving me awareness of this cause, and being able to talk to others about my experiences with it. Whether it was sharing my story to comfort others, to raise awareness, or participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it also brings comfort to me.

Thank you, ALS for having the phrase “never give up” on your wristbands. It’s a motto not only the ones afflicted with the disease should be living by, but something we should all be living by. This short phrase can be a personal mantra or something you preach to anyone who will listen to it. Three simple words cannot only inspire you but inspire multitudes around you.

ALS, thank you for teaching me how to live life to the fullest. We never know when the unexpected is going to hit us, and furthermore, how it's going to change us. One day everything will be fine, then it can change at a moment’s notice. At the end of the day, we need to be able to say, “I swear I lived.”

Also, thank you for teaching me one of the most important lessons I hold close to my heart today. Thank you for teaching me not to take any moment with loved ones for granted. The last time I left Jeff, I never thought it would be my last time seeing him. Little did I know, three weeks later, I would be on a plane back to Colorado to say my final farewell. Yet, there are still times I wish I would have done more -- spent an extra few minutes before bed with him -- but now I have learned. I have learned that I should never take time with my loved ones for granted. Spend the extra minute, create a new memory, and say "I love you" one too many times; thank you ALS for teaching me these mini-lessons because little did I know these would become pieces of whom I would become.

Finally, thank you ALS for giving me the opportunity to grow as an individual. The challenges you presented to me and my family were without a doubt a challenge, but we came out stronger with a new perspective about how we were living our lives. I knew these simple lessons before; here I am thanking the disease that took my hero for changing my life.

Thank you, ALS for coming into my life. Thank you ALS for giving me my personal mantra, "never give up," and pushing me to live it every day. Thank you, ALS for teaching me how to live my life to the fullest. Thank you ALS for teaching me the importance of spending my moments with the ones I love, and making sure they know how much I love them because it could be the last time. Thank you, ALS for giving me the opportunity to grow as an individual. Most importantly, thank you to my ALS band for showing up again; I needed you.


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