Hanging From the Grab Bars of Humor in My ALS Life

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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I realize the words “ALS” and “humor” don’t always hang out together, but in my life they often do. I’ve been living with ALS since 2010, and over the years, I’ve learned not to let a day go by without finding humor in the absurdity of it all.

Most of my “laugh out loud” episodes involve simple incidents — misunderstood conversations, attempting to open tamper-proof pill bottles, or even losing a wrestling match to a strip of extra-wide Velcro that refuses to pull apart.

Sometimes the laughs are in my daydreams

One day when my ALS-affected voice plagued me, I stopped and imagined how a voice like mine would be perfect to take orders at a local hamburger joint’s drive-thru window. I thought of the prank I’d pull on the customers who arrived only to discover that the drive-thru speaker wasn’t actually broken. The garbled voice they had heard was really me!

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Finding the Funny Moments in Caregiving

Or, I take advantage of the perfect situation

Recently, when riding my mobility scooter at the grocery store, I came across a shopping cart filled with several super bored children. Slowly cruising by, I felt their envy that I, an adult riding at their eye level, had such a cool ride.

Cruising a few feet ahead, I took advantage of my scooter’s tight turning radius and quickly performed a full turn in the middle of the aisle. Hearing a collective “Ooooh!” from their direction, I gave them a wave, hunched down, and with my best impression of an Italian motorcycle racer, squeezed the scooter’s “go” lever, and took off — all at the mighty speed of 1 mph!

What are the health benefits?

Health experts agree that our brains are simply hardwired to see the negative and think about all the ways something can go wrong. That trait saved our ancestors from danger and helped them survive through the ages. But in our modern lives, constantly fixating on the negative only fills us with unhealthy anxiety and worry.

Research shows that laughter brings more oxygen into our lungs, stimulates our hearts, and is linked to pain relief. When we laugh, our blood pressure drops and our immune response increases.

For those with chronic diseases, finding humor in situations can help reduce the negative effects of feeling unhealthy, out of control, afraid, or helpless. For ALS patients, improved well-being can slow symptom progression.

A few more chuckles

Often, just navigating the world around me makes me roll my eyes and laugh. Don’t get me started on public restrooms. OK, OK, maybe just a few quick stories.

I believe that architects the world over regard accessible stalls in public restrooms as valuable property and purposely place them farthest from the restroom’s entrance. Or, maybe it’s to help us improve our bladder control skills.

I wonder why a fancy push button automatically opens the restroom door. But once inside, I still have to deal with tiny latches to lock the stall’s door. And good luck getting the stall’s door closed behind me. By the time I’ve wedged myself inside with my walker or scooter, the door has swung open behind me.

Once, in the restroom of a big box home improvement store, I discovered that the single grab bar had been installed on the wall above the toilet. I kept my composure, pretended I was Spiderman, and shared a laugh later with my husband while recounting the experience.

Did my stories bring a smile to your face? Then you’re on your way. Let’s help each other learn to laugh and 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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Maria Gavriilidou avatar

Maria Gavriilidou

I really admire you!!! You do great, thank you for inspiring us!

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Thank you Maria :-)

Carol Law avatar

Carol Law

Recently, at restroom in big gas station handicapped stall was closest to front door. I couldn't get stall lock to work so just closed door and while I was doing my business FOUR different able-bodied 20-something year olds barged in on me.

Also, recently I wrote that living with ALS there's no practice, no rehearsals- it's always opening night so do not fall on your ass unless it's in the script!

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

.... and, we're all starring in our own improv comedy show! ;-) :-)

Leslie Mincks avatar

Leslie Mincks

The great thing about laughter is it doesn’t cost a penny and you don’t have to have it refilled by the pharmacist.

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Well said, Leslie. Well said ;-)

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