Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Have An Awful Lot To Be Thankful For

This morning's Wall Street Journal has a wonderful article by Melinda Beck on thankfulness.

Thank You. No, Thank You
Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up
It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.

A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don't, studies show.

"A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them," says Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., who has conducted much of the research with children.

"The key is not to leave it on the Thanksgiving table," says Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis and a pioneer in gratitude research. And, he notes, "with the realization that one has benefited comes the awareness of the need to reciprocate."
Many of us have watched people with ALS who have an incredible sense of gratitude in the face of a disease that clearly isn't fair or easy. Lou Gehrig and thousands of men and women teach us every day that they have an awful lot to be thankful for. It matters not whether the patients are men or women, rich or poor, young or old -- we see incredible grateful attitudes. Being thankful in the face of this disease that forces you to puree the turkey and mashed potatoes takes a special courage. Gratitude won't cure ALS, but I'm sure that Lou Gehrig's attitude of thankfulness helped Eleanor as much as Mom's has helped me.

Thank you, brave people whom we have lost to ALS. Thank you, Melinda Beck.

Friday, November 12, 2010

For Better, For Worse, For ALS

Do you ever think about how you would handle those bad things that might happen down the road?

Most of us aspire to be Lance Armstrong or Robin Roberts if ever faced with a terrible diagnosis. You find the best treatments available and you fight with all your might.

Most of us would want to be caregivers like Sandra Day O'Connor or Dana Reeve if a spouse were ever slapped with a terrible diagnosis.

ALS puts a big wrench in all of those brave plans for the hypothetical terrible diagnosis. Oh, you have to be very brave, but ALS isn't a fair fight. It is like a bad situation on fast forward, and you're surrounded by people and institutions that are stuck in slow motion.

First you seek those best treatments available. The first day or two of research are incredible. They are outrageous. We're stuck in 1939. There's nothing. Nada. The best ALS centers in the world don't have a concrete plan that you can try to win the fight. Once you figure out that grim reality, ALS forces patients and caregivers to skip Kubler-Ross and get on with some challenging caregiving to make the best of the upcoming downhill slide.

Next you start to deal with it. You feel like pioneers in everything you do. Time takes on new dimensions. The healthcare delivery system doesn't know how to deliver at the speeds you need. With every decision you make, it's like you're throwing the ball five yards behind the receiver by the time healthcare delivery delivers. You do physically demanding work with a healthcare system that does not cooperate. At the same time you watch a loved one slipping away in a decline that is far too fast and somehow predictably unpredictable.

November is "National Family Caregivers' Month." We celebrate the contributions of caregivers. Perhaps it's time for us to do something concrete for our ALS caregivers. Let's fix a few things. If we can't cure ALS, then we need to help people deal with it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"I Can't Stand Up But I Can Be Counted!"

"I Can't Stand Up But I Can Be Counted!" -- Words of a man with ALS upon enrolling in the national registry at

Every person with ALS counts. Please be sure that you are included in the CDC's new U.S. National ALS Registry. If you have ALS, please enroll right away. If you know anyone with ALS, please pass this information along.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

At Least It Didn't Use The Word "Lamestream!"

This is the last paragraph from a suggested letter-to-the-editor provided by ALSA for Veterans' Day --
But not enough people know about the registry. It was forgotten by the press. I hope this Veterans Day, the media will remember that our veterans and thousands of other Americans are fighting a war against ALS. And that the ALS Registry is there to help them fight back.

"It was forgotten by the press."
...and why might that have been?
...and who might have been responsible for that?
Hmmmm. Why are we blaming the media?

281-word, mass-produced, mass-submitted letters to editors aren't likely to fix the problem of ALS and the registry being forgotten by the press, either.

When will we ever learn?

Great Caesar's ghost!