Please help in the fight against ALS in honor of Justin Dodson
I lost my good friend Justin Dodson to ALS on March 7th this year. In his honor, I am participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as part of Team Race for ALS.
Justin lost his battle after 4 years of fighting the daily horrors of ALS. Justin AKA- Juice, served in 2 wars (Iraq/Afghanistan) as an Army Ranger where he experienced some unspeakable atrocities. I believe this made him value friends and loved ones and make the most of everyday. Juice and I met 17 years ago, I was in college at ISU, in my late 20s trying to change my life after the loss of my sister 2 years prior, didn't know anyone in town, didn't want to hang out with 20 year olds and just had a bad breakup- it was a lonely time. I worked at a local "townie" dive bar off campus, Justin was a regular who for whatever reason looked out for me. I had never known that a man was supposed to walk on the street side of the side walk, that's the kind of guy he was, old school chivalry, kind, funny and always knew how to make me smile. He moved to Chicago years after I left Bloomington, although we hadn't seen each other in years we didn't miss a beat. We enjoyed good restaurants and drinks, shared our crazy dating stories..(he could pick em), he could always pull me out of my dark places and seemed to have radar to know when I needed a friend. I miss him a lot.
When Justin told me of his diagnosis, I honestly didn't know what it meant. All I knew about ALS was Lou Gehrig and Ice Bucket Challenges. I did a lot of research, the more I learned the more upset, scared and angry I became. In the US, every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with ALS and someone dies of ALS (that's 112 people each week). There is no cure, no real treatment, some experimental drugs that haven't done much, no known causes, life expectancy after diagnosis is typically up to 3-5 years and for some reason military veterans are much more likely to develop ALS. I lost 2 sisters to cancer- ALS is worse.
Justin stayed positive after his diagnosis, dealing with new challenges everyday. What started with numbness and tingling fingertips and trouble buttoning shirts, evolved into losing the ability to walk, talk, eat and eventually breath. He spent as much time as possibly working with the ALS Foundation to help others. He spoke in front of congress,was honored at Cubs and Blackhawks games (his favorite teams). He was very brave, upbeat and always wanted friends and family around. Despite his disease, he married the love of his life in 2017.
I had no intention of running another marathon this year but this is the best way I could think of to honor his memory, by helping others suffering with ALS. I think of Juice on every run, when I am struggling he pushes me along.
Justin was fortunate to have the help of the ALS Foundation. They helped with transportation and equipment to make life more comfortable for Justin and his family, wheel chairs, lifts, etc. He found a network of other ALS sufferers to provide strength to each other. Founded in 1977, the Les Turner ALS Foundation is the leader in comprehensive ALS care in Chicagoland. Although they're one of the largest independent ALS groups in the country, they treat each person like family and are committed to supporting them every step of the way. Their individualized approach ensures each person living with the disease receives the best quality of care and their local community of support provides their loved ones with answers and encouragement.
Please consider making a donation to help me reach my fundraising goal. Together, we can make an impact and create a world free of ALS.
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