Rich Pollock, diagnosed in December 2014 at age 35.
I was diagnosed with ALS three days before Christmas, 2014. By this time ALS wasn’t a new term, and wasn’t unexpected.
In January 2014 we had made a major move from one side of Florida to the other. With the move came many other little tasks and projects, such as refinishing a few large pieces of furniture (using power tools, sanders, etc…), so I wasn’t overly surprised in February when I began noticing some odd things going on in my left hand. It began to feel weaker, would twitch at various times, and the more startling symptom was that I began to have difficulty doing such small, mundane things as buttoning buttons.
I went to a new PCP (due to the move) for the first time and was referred to a neurologist. Next came a ton of tests and MRI’s, followed by a referral to a neurosurgeon, as the neurologist thought that I may have a blockage in my C-8 vertebra. The neurologist concluded that there was nothing that he could do for me, and for the first time mentioned the possibility of ALS… ALS, what was that? I knew I had heard of it before, but never really paid much attention. So, home I went on a mission to “Google” it.
I later returned to my neurologist who confirmed the possibility of ALS, and ordered further MRI’s and an EMG (Did I mention how much I HATE EMG’s?). Finally, after all of this, he still wasn’t sure. Behind the scenes of all of this, my rock, aka my wife Talitha, was working and doing her best to get me into Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville. I was seen relatively quickly, the doctor there initially thought that, though I did have symptoms of ALS, he wasn’t fully convinced, so more tests… Finally, December rolls around, and I’ve had at least eight different MRI’s, three separate EMG’s (the dreaded EMG), a Myelogram, spinal tap, and after more blood tests than I could probably count I received my final diagnosis. I have ALS.
I had just turned 35 a month earlier. My beautiful wife and I had just celebrated our ten-year wedding anniversary, our oldest daughter has already grown up and moved out, but still…and then there’s “Gigi” our nine-year-old daughter, Genevieve Grace. What does this mean for me? For them? I mean, I have so many things left to do… grow old with my wife, walk down the aisle with a daughter, daughters one day, right? I don’t know now. In reality I never “knew” before. Nothing is certain, nothing is promised. Every day is a gift from God. As odd as this may seem to say, I believe that ALS, though a horrible disease that I completely do not look forward to in any way, is a gift from God.
I don’t fully understand it yet, and will probably never fully understand it this side of heaven, but what I do know is this: I am already consciously making an effort to spend more quality time with my family. We are making it a point to do things together and make memories. The Lord has given me a chance to share my story, and I will continue to do so while praising Him, knowing that this is only temporary, and also know that there will be a day when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4
I don’t know what tomorrow may bring, whether good or bad, but I do know one thing: I intend to focus on today! “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matt 6:34