Speech from the MDA-ALS Gala “A Night at the Races” 2013

Hello, I’m Joy Parker.

I’m honored to have been invited to speak with you at the Gala. This is the third time I’ve done this, and even though giving a speech now takes a lot out of me, I am glad to say—I can still speak! As a continuing survivor of ALS, I’m asked, and more often its my husband who gets asked, how long I can expect to live with this disease

The average number is 5 years after diagnosis. I was diagnosed in April of 2010.

ALS is difficult to diagnose. There isn’t a single test for it.

I spent months of visiting different doctors and specialists. The doctors eliminated all of the disease I didn’t have, and to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, when you eliminate all the possibilities, whatever’s left is the truth. And the truth was, I had ALS.

Research into the behavior of ALS is giving our community hope not just for a cure, but for a more meaningful way to predict how ALS might affect us. Researchers in Ireland have found the better your cognitive function is, the better your chances for living longer with ALS. I guess this might be why Steven Hawking, the smartest man on the planet, has been able to live with ALS for over 50 years!!

I want to thank you for your continued support of research, not only to find a cure for ALS, but to support findings like these that help give families a better sense of how much time they have as they live with this disease. This is the third time I’ve spoken at this event. The first time I was able to stand at the podium. Last year I was in a wheelchair. This year I’m in this baby, thanks to the MDA.

I continue to work, and be a mom. My disease has progressed, but my goals have remained the same. I still plan on seeing my youngest daughter graduate from High School.

Thank you.

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Honest Delusions

The title of my post comes from an amazing sermon I heard at church last week from a retired newspaper reporter. At the FIrst Unitarian Church of Rochester, we have taken on a “Provocateur-in-Residence,” named Mark Hare, formerly of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Hare’s first sermon was “The Honest Person’s Honest (Even Noble) Delusions” and just blew me away. (Listen here: streaming | download ) He talked about how all people put up delusions about all sorts of things. Putting self imposed limits on ourselves that sometimes we don’t even know we’re doing, until someone else points it out. For example, telling yourself you’re too old or too busy to go back to school or to take a new job, then someone else tells you that, well No in fact you can do it because of X, Y & Z. Then you think – well yeah, of course I could do that!

The part that astonished ME was when Hare started talking about his friend with cancer, near the end of his talk. Mike & I just kept looking at each other because we knew how it felt to “deal” with a terminal illness. This friend with terminal cancer, was told he would have 6 months to live. He just kept living his life. He made plans to play music and travel and kept living. You would think he never remembered he was dying. But it was not true. As Hare puts it, he had that stuff in the “closet” until he could deal with it. He didn’t live his life as a dying person, he lived it as a living person, and every so often he’d check in that “closet.”

Well the night before this we were watching Doctor Who’s Episode “Night Terrors,” where a frightened “little boy” kept all the scary things in the cupboard! (cupboard=closet) And since he was actually an alien being, they were really going into the cupboard. Even little kids can understand putting scary stuff away from sight!

I can relate to both these stories. Yes I have ALS, with no cure, that continually progresses, but I have chosen to live my life as a person who gets up, gets dressed and goes to work. I shove that horrible news I have that I will someday not be able to do anything back into the closet until I can deal. Occasionally, I do take it out and remind myself to enjoy each day that I have as it comes. I don’t think our human minds can handle knowing that sickness will wear you down and death is coming. That dark place will freak you out.

The best part was sharing this service with Mike, who gladly, already knew I was not acting in self denial but in a place that moves me forward in life. Which I guess keeps my body motivated to live as well.

Today I am 42

Yep. The cat’s outta the bag. Either you thought I was younger than that  – or you thought I was older. Let’s just say you thought I was younger.

As I was saying… I am 42. It’s been a strange and long road to get to today. Not only the usual being born growing up stuff that people do. Not even the mental growing up that we often are forced into. Not just because I am terminally ill.

On August 8th, 2011 things started to change. I survived a massive  pulmonary embolism.

I’m not being dramatic when I say MASSIVE. It actually was SEVERAL clots. I thought I just had a panic attack. I count my lucky stars that I work with AMAZING people. My two ANGELS know who they are.

I had no idea what was wrong with me except I had blot clots. They gave me oxygen and blood thinner. Scanners for this, that and the other. It took hours. I didn’t actually know what it all meant until I managed to get out of the resident doc.

I am crafty. As soon as I questioned the resident, I grabbed my iPod Touch and jumped on the free hospital wi-fi to google blood clots.

And that’s where I learned why everyone was so grim and serious, including my husband.

As you know, looking up any kind of health problem is scary. I had NO IDEA I was moments from death when I arrived at the hospital.

It’s almost a year since that happened. I was bedridden, had physical therapists, visiting nurses,visiting care assistants, and not a lot of strength. It took until Thanksgiving to realize that although I was regaining strength, I had lost a fair amount of it too.

I had to accept that I wasn’t going to remarkably improve, the ALS was still going to make both breathing and walking more difficult.

It’s just how it is going to be. It’s how it is.

I spent a lot of time showing everyone my strength to help my loved ones and other people who suffer the same fate how great I am doing at carrying it all and being so positive. This is the other side of that coin.

It is hard. Life is hard. Life is hard for everyone. That is truly how I get through my dark times.

It’s hard to think ahead to the next year when I’m not even sure I’ll be here next year. It’s hard to set personal goals or even professional ones when I no longer see so far into the future. Those are part of the life I left behind.

I am finally in the here and now. What motivates me now is what I can do NOW. Right now. Not last year, not next year. NOW.

Happy Birthday to me as I am now!

 

Speech from Red Wings Game

Hello!

Thank you for the chance to say a few words to you tonight about ALS and the important research being done to find a cure.

ALS is a rare neuromuscular disease that affects about 1 in 100,000 people.

While its cause is still unknown, and the cure remains elusive, we celebrate the progress that’s been achieved by making May “ALS Awareness month”.

We do so as a tribute to a player who, at the height of his career, announced to the world on May 2nd, 1939, that he would be leaving his position as Captain of the Yankees.

The sudden shock of seeing an athlete go from a 363 average to only 4 hits in the first 8 games of the ’39 season gave the world a dramatic example of how quickly ALS can progress, and that no one, not even The Iron Horse, could fight it.

I am referring, of course to Lou Gehrig and the disease that bears his name.

When he made his famous speech, he said he was lucky.

He said it was because of the love and support from his family, friends, and fans, that he could face ALS as he did the game of baseball: with heart and a winning attitude.

Today, the MDA and the University of Rochester Medical Center, are helping ALS patients like myself face this disease,  the same way Lou Gehrig did –  and to live each day to its fullest.

On behalf of the MDA, I ‘d like to thank all the fans of the Rochester Red Wings that are here tonight for your support, and encourage you to do what you can to support ALS research to help us find a cure.

Thank you.

Message to Everyone

For those of you that haven’t heard, I have been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The neurologists believe it is a slow progressing version, but incurable. I’m still able to walk, drive and go to work at this time. We don’t know how quickly it will progress.

Many people have asked what they can do for me. At the moment, I don’t really need much care. I will in the future.

If you are interested, there are 2 charities that you can donate to help:

Walk to Defeat ALS — WXXI Walks for Joy

http://web.alsa.org/site/TR/Walks/UpstateNewYorkWalkteam_id=177270&pg=team&fr_id=6578

Thank you for helping us reach our fund raising goal! WXXI Walks for Joy is a team of WXXI colleagues and friends who are pledging support to our friend Joy who was recently diagnosed with ALS. Together we can make a difference in the lives of those, like Joy, affected by Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Our team is committed to raising money to support people in our community with ALS and spread awareness of the urgency to find treatment and a cure. Please consider joining our team in the Walk to Defeat ALS or choose a team member from the list and donate to our cause.

Send Joy Parker and Her Family to Disney World Fund

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Send-Joy-Parker-and-Her-Family-to-Disney-World Fund/128862073803837

My husband’s best friend Brian created this fund:

Joy was recently diagnosed with ALS. She and her family would like to go to Disney World this year, and I want to help them get there. So I’ve started a fund, with Joy and Mike, with a goal of $4,000. Please write a check for what you can, and make it out to “FBO Joy Parker” (FBO stands for “For the Benefit Of”). Send it to: Joy’s Disney Fund, C/O Brian Steblen, 2 Prospect Street, Fairport, NY 14450. They’d like to go in December, so get those pens out now!

Right now I’m trying to live to the best of my ability everyday. I’m hoping to make some trips and visit friends and family before I am unable to.

Thank you so much for being in my life.

You can keep up with me on here my blog: http://simplejoysonline.com