Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Message to my Friends

Just about everyone I know would agree that I am a quiet person. Mainly because I feel I don't have the 'gift of gab' or elaborate writing skills compared to others. However, I do not consider myself as a private person. Private people don't like to share their personal lives with others. For those of you that know me well, I enjoy listening rather than talking, but I love to talk about my family adventures with those that have an interest. I usually go out my way to insure that people like and accept me as a person. My ten years at FedEx have been very happy. The spirit of cooperation and dedication made going to work a pleasure. During the work day, I always focused on the task at hand rather than the social aspects of an office environment. For that reason I took pride in my ability to effectively facilitate and collaborate with groups of people to get the job done. For me the job came first, everything else came second. I never really liked to talk about my problems.

It has been 22 months since my first symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The initial emotional pain and anguish after my diagnosis in January 2005 was unbearable. My strategy was to avoid the full disclosure of my illness for as long as possible, for the following reasons. First of all, ignorance is bliss, especially for our children. Secondly, even though I have the highest regard for my friends and coworkers and I know the feeling is mutual, I intuitively knew the knowledge of my terminal illness could damage our relationship and my career. Once you learned of my illness, I noticed each one of you handled the grieving process in your own way. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the support given to me and my family.

I've been tracking the progress of my disease and comparing it to the national standard. I fall in the exact dead center of the charts. I have a classic case of ALS. My major concern at this point is that I'm becoming more dependent on my wife for daily needs and it will only get worse. I can no longer walk, dress, or shower on my own. I can barely bring a fork to my mouth since my arm and hand strength is so depleted. It has taken me three hours over the course of two days to type this document. I don't mind. I've taught myself, by reading and corresponding with other ALS patients around the world (we have our own network) that it's not worth getting frustrated. I just accept the fact that it takes me longer to do things. Attitude is everything.

Since June 1st, the day I went on disability, I have been reading a great deal about how people react to people with ALS. If a friend or coworker thinks the person with the ALS is a private person, they're more than likely to leave that person alone. Please understand that I don't want to be left alone. Email is preferred. Personal visits are certainly appreciated as some of you know, but my voice is not what it used to be. The good news is I will soon be getting a new communication device that will help me talk via my laptop computer. I'm fairly certain most of you would be interested in seeing it. Stephen Hawking uses it. I'm looking forward to taking the next step in enabling me to type emails and talk more effectively.

Again, thanks for your continued support to me and my family.