Understanding and accepting the process of aging and living with ALS
How my sense of getting older has changed as I've lived with my disease
Yay, it’s October! Fall colors, pumpkin pie, Halloween, and my birthday month. Not only am I feeling “another year older, another year wiser,” I’m also grateful and appreciative that I’ve had 72 birthdays, even though I’m living with ALS. But reaching this particular milestone has me pondering the complicated relationship between aging and ALS.
I’ll admit that I’ve always had preconceived notions about what getting old looks like and feels like. I think we all do. During my first year of ALS, however, I learned how far off base my notions were.
Back then, I could still go to our local pool. One day I was in the shallow end, water-walking with a friend, while an exuberant water aerobics class was being held in the deep end. My friend innocently asked how I was doing. “Ugh,” I responded in a loud voice. “Everything’s achy. I’m stiff and sore and feel like I’m 90 years old.”
“Shh,” she warned me, glancing over my shoulder. “Some of the people in that class are 90 years old.”
I stared at the energetic bodies sloshing in the water, suddenly realizing that my impression of being old needed an upgrade. But I was only 59, and my ALS symptoms had me feeling much older. ALS is like that.
The irony is that aging is a risk factor for ALS, and many ALS symptoms mimic aging. More than once I’ve had to ask myself if a particular change in my body’s movement was normal for my advancing age, or if it was my ALS.
Aging and ALS: Both challenge us to accept and cope with change. I’m now moving more slowly and have different activities and new interests. Recently, I was reading an online review of “the best of” an assortment of products. What caught my attention? Not the kitchen gadgets, shoes, or the latest technology. It was the review of the latest, top-of-the-line rollators.
Rollators? Me? I had to chuckle. Yes, I guess thanks to aging and ALS, rollators are now an important part of my life.
Thanks to the recent advancements in ALS treatments, technology, and assistive devices, ALS patients are living longer. Helpful organizations, such as the ALS Association, and publications like ALS News Today offer useful resources and support.
The adage “We all get to be young, but not everyone gets to be old” has me appreciating my family and many friends who’ve all helped me reach this milestone. Thank you.
Are there any upcoming milestones or celebrations in your future? I hope so. Congratulations from me to you. We can all age well, and we can help one another learn to live well with ALS.
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