This I Believe

Andrew - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Entered on May 31, 2006

I believe the events in our lives matter far less than how we choose to deal with those events. My life has been a series of decisions I’ve made rather than a series of things that happened to me. The guide I use to make my decisions is something I heard as a kid. I think it was a coffee shop advertisement. Here it is:

As you ramble through life brother,

What ever be your goal,

Keep your eye upon the doughnut,

And not upon the hole

I’d always loved doughnuts and this seemed like good advice when I heard it, so I filled this bit of philosophy away for future use.

And this positive outlook carried me through school, college and 20 years as an officer in the United States Navy. During that time I met and married the love of my life, Ellen and we had our daughter Rachel. Our lives together have been overwhelmingly positive. The Navy moved us to some great places over the years and we took full advantage of our opportunities. We had ups and downs like every one, but nothing out of the ordinary. All the while I tried to keep my eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole, and we did fine.

Then, two and a half years ago I was diagnosed with Amiotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease. ALS causes the nerves that control your voluntary muscles to die. And when the nerve dies, the muscle it controls also dies. Voluntary muscles include anything you can control, like your arms and legs, but also your breathing. ALS doesn’t affect your brain or memory, only your muscles. Life expectancy for ALS patients averages three to five years from diagnosis. There’s no cure.

If there was ever a time when I needed a positive outlook to help me through a tough spot, My ALS diagnosis was it. But you know, from the moment my doctor gave me the news, first my family, then my friends have rallied around me. And rather than worry about the things I couldn’t do any more, I’ve tried to concentrate on what I could do and on figuring out new ways to continue doing the things I enjoy.

ALS has changed the way I live. I need help doing things like dressing and eating now, but it hasn’t changed who I am. And it can’t change anything that’s already happened in my life As I see it, ALS only has power over me if I decide to give that power away. And that’s something I’ll never do. This is just another challenge to deal with and with the help of my family and friends, that’s what I’m doing.

I gain strength in the knowledge that God doesn’t give us the burdens we deserve, He gives us the burdens we can bear. So, I’ve decided to remember the reasons I have to be happy and to keep my eye upon the doughnut. and not upon the hole. This philosophy has served me very well so far and I believe it always will.