In the summer of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a major Internet sensation as both entertainment and as a way of raising money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Like any good viral story, the challenge quickly spread all over the world. You’ve heard of the challenge, but have you heard of Anthony Carbajal?
When Carbajal was diagnosed with ALS, he was no stranger to the disease. “I have what is called familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Only 5 to 10 percent of ALS patients have this genetic disposition. My grandmother Marie was diagnosed when I was in middle school. (…) My mother was diagnosed when I was in high school and has been living with this disease for 13 years,” he explained in a 2015 opinion piece for CNN.
After graduating from university, the young man returned home to take care of his mother. He started working as a photographer at weddings on weekends and spent time with his mother during the week.
He was happy. But everything changed when Carbajal started experiencing weakness in the hands and arms. “I was carrying camera equipment all day, and it became increasingly more difficult to change settings and hold up my camera. After a wedding, I felt like I was hit by a bus. I was so incredibly exhausted (…) that I realized I couldn’t ignore the symptoms anymore,” he wrote. On January 27, 2014, at age of 26 years old, Carbajal got the devastating news and his final diagnosis: he had ALS.
“I’ve learned so much since my own diagnosis and my Ice Bucket Challenge video went viral last year. I realized that our voices do matter. I realized that we need to share our story; because it will help others understand the realities of this disease. I’m never giving up. (…) I’m learning to adapt,” he said.
Adaptation to a new lifestyle included adjusting to the progression of his disease, which has not been easy. In the meantime, Carbajal gained a new source of hope and support when, in November 2014, Carbajal married his now wife, Laarne Palec, in Riverside, California.
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