A childhood curveball at Halloween guides me in living with ALS

Reversals and disappointments can teach us a central lesson about life

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner for

Being told I had ALS felt as if a rug had suddenly been pulled out from under me. My world changed all at once, with no possibility of turning it back.

That happened in 2010, and it was certainly a major curveball in my life. But I’ve been living with curveballs for a long time now. Each one offers a similar lesson: I can’t control everything around me. The first such lesson I remember was hiding in an empty paper bag when I was 11 years old.

A few days before Halloween, the kids on my elementary school playground were buzzing with excitement. We were having intense debates about the best costume to wear; dressing as a hobo won the popular vote. We also tried to guess who would win bragging rights for having collected the most candy while trick-or-treating.

Recommended Reading
The words

Long-term ALS survival benefit with CNM-Au8 seen in trial analyses

Pursuing candy dressed as a hobo

The big night finally arrived. At dusk, I met up with my best friend, who lived nearby, and then we joined her older siblings to trick-or-treat down the sidewalk. Our comical gang of hobos rang the doorbells to the houses on our side of the street, then the opposite side, and even ventured to the unfamiliar block of houses beyond our street.

All the while we laughed, guessed who was giving out the best goodies, and marveled at the increasing weight of our trick-or-treat bags. Mine was a recycled brown paper bag from a grocery store, the kind with two thin paper handles. I remember how the handles dug into my fingers at stops as the bag grew heavier and heavier.

Several hours later, filled with high spirits, we shuffled home, gathering at my friend’s front door to examine our booty. I heard oohs and aahs from the others, but when I opened my bag, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was staring through a large hole in the bottom. All I could see was the doormat below — not the Halloween candy I was expecting.

I suddenly realized that during the evening, the weight of my bag — plus my short stature — caused it to drag on the ground. Since I was also trekking through damp grass, it all caused a hole that allowed my bag’s contents to dribble out along our route.

The shock and disappointment of this loss put a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

My brain swirled with thoughts of “That’s not fair!” But turning to look at the dark sidewalk behind us, I knew I couldn’t retrace my steps, replace the lost treats, or wind back the clock. The moment was gone.

Stay and play the game of life

That’s the thing about curveballs. They teach us the lessons that life happens and we can’t always be in control. As I wrote in my column “The ALS Game Board of Life,” we can’t stomp away in anger. We have to move on, making the best of our changed circumstances and new perspectives.

Like that disappointing Halloween, ALS teaches us lessons.

Let’s all continue to transition through life’s changes and curveballs with ease and help each other live well while living with ALS.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Hanna avatar


What an inspiring way to look at the game of life! Lessons learned are a great way to have a productive outlook of life!

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Hanna, Thank you!

Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.