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Woman with ALS to take part in second ‘Walk to Defeat’

Westborough When walkers gather at Westborough High School Saturday Sept. 26 for the “Walk to Defeat ALS,” Mary Aggis will be among them for the second time.

    The first time, in the 2008 walk, her walking team of about 600 people, dubbed “Miles for Mary,” raised nearly $50,000 of the $130,000 the walk raised. And she has a very good reason to raise that money. Just a few months before the walk, Aggis, who is a Grafton resident, got the diagnosis she was dreading.

    Aggis, who had worked for 22 years in the critical care unit at Tufts University Medical Center, went to the doctor because she experienced weakness in her left – and dominant – hand in the spring of 2008.

    A neurologist gave me an EMG test … and a lot of blood tests,” she said. “I was going through the neurology books at work trying to figure it out – I was avoiding ALS because I know that is the worst diagnosis.”

    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is fatal. The disease affects the body’s neurological system. As motor neurons degenerate, the patient loses control of voluntary functions and is eventually paralyzed. Then the neurons fail completely, causing death, according to the ALS Association website (www.als.org).

    Aggis’s interview was conducted via e-mail because she has difficulty speaking clearly due to the disease. She carries a pad and pen to communicate, and will soon have speech device, she said.

    Aggis, who is married and has two children, tries to maintain her healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet and swimming. She can no longer work, so she keeps busy with her family and their dog. Speaking out and working toward a cure for ALS are important to her.

    “I just want people to know that this disease strikes people in the prime of their lives and we need more research to come up with a better treatment for ALS. Do you know there is only one drug for ALS?” she said. “I also want people to know that I watched what I ate, kept my weight down and exercised thinking I was doing everything right for a healthy lifestyle. It just doesn't make any sense.”

    Hearing the diagnosis was devastating, Aggis said.

    “The doctor told me there was no hope and my life span was five to seven years,” Aggis said. “What she gave was a death sentence.”

    It took some time for her to be able to tell others, including her children, about her diagnosis.

    “My husband and I kept the secret from our kids and everyone else until I could tell friends and relatives without breaking up,” Aggis said. “We held off telling my kids after the school year ended. The hardest part is not seeing my kids grow up.”

    Aggis did get a second opinion, based on her first doctor’s advice. While the diagnosis didn’t change, he told her about current research into ALS treatment, and she has participated in some studies, she said.

  “I'm hoping for new drug or stem cell study to come along,” Aggis said. “I'll try anything reasonable.”

    In the United States, about 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to the ALS Association.

    The 3.5-mile Westborough Walk to Defeat ALS begins at 10 a.m. Saturday Sept. 26 at Westborough High School. Anyone interested in donating to the walk can visit www.walktodefeatals.org or call the ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter at 781-255-8884.

 

 

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=5653

Posted by on Sep 25 2009. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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