Monthly Archives: February 2024

A Painful Decision

A Painful Decision 

In the Fall of 1994, I was newly pregnant. I was working as a part time librarian at my local graduate school library.  Lets just say that I did not carry well and I left my library in an ambulance.  Lacking sick leave, I resigned a couple weeks later.  

This came into my head the other day as I was thinking about the beastie that now has latched on to me.  It is progressive. I have already said I am getting a feeding tube.  My lungs are under attack.  Next up is my limbs. I am already dealing with weakness in that area.  I love you all, I don’t want to leave BMCC in an ambulance if I can avoid it. If I can, I would like to leave upright.  

So that is why I have announced to HR that I will be retiring effective 8/28/24.  I believe that will be 15 years. I will be creating a plan to use my accumulated leave between now and then.

I have been reminded that many of you are in pain, and wonder what you can do to help.  

First: Treasure your life.  You do not know what the future holds. Those of you that have partners or children, give them some extra love. 

Second: Love our students.  I will not be returning to the one on one appointments. Which leaves a huge gap.  Ask Kathleen how you can help.

Third: Support ALS United of Greater NY so they can support us.  Can you get together a team for the ALS Walk?


A Lifesaving Choice

On Thursday I got an appointment with the ALS Clinic at Columbia. I asked my new doctor, Dr. Harms, about my prognosis.  What he said really shocked me and flipped my world view around.  He said that I would lose my ability to swallow in 6 months.  I do believe him because there has already been a remarkable pace of change since last summer.  

I went into this meeting believing that feeding tubes kept elderly people alive when they really should be released.  I am 62, and still a working professional. I am writing another book.  I can’t leave yet. 

So I flipped,  I will be getting a feeding tube. I have work to do. I want to put this out there as good news! I’m having too much fun. I can’t leave.  Therefore extraordinary steps will be taken to keep me alive!

I don’t know

I don’t know. 

Many of you have already heard the first part of this story.  On 6/12/23 my husband was out of town,  I was rushing home to meet the air conditioning repairman.  I had a catastrophic fall.  The broken bones were soon mended, but other symptoms began to appear. Some have noticed that my voice has gradually deteriorated, despite speech therapy.  It’s not only my voice but also chewing and swallowing that has been affected.

We have sought medical care. The first couple of doctors and therapists kept saying, this must be aging with CP.  So, it’s taken a while to get attention.  I’m wondering if this train would have moved faster if I were able bodied to begin with. 

I have challenged my neurologist to put a name on this beast that is attacking me.  As part of that conversation we told her that my father and my grandfather died of ALS.  To understand what happened next, please understand that I have been hoping and expecting that some doctor somewhere would listen to me and claim me.  Well, it happened, she shared a video of me with the motor neuron group and they said “get her tested!”  The tests have shown that I have ALS.  I have not yet spoken with the man who can tell me how long I have. 

I want to take a moment and honor my Dad and my Grandfather.  

My father’s name was Raymond John Deland. He was a meteorologist who, when I was a child he worked for NYU in the Bronx (Shout to Bronx Community College). He is who I am thinking of when I describe myself as a second generation academic.   He was a kind and gentle man. I have read his autobiography. He was crazy about my Mom.  He was diagnosed in 1984, and passed on 4/1/91. 

My grandfather Charles Mervyn Deland, was a very interesting man.  He was a doctor who spent a lot of time in the tropics, and was knowledgeable about tropical diseases. My Dad was born during his service in New Guinea.  He died on 7/11/62.  .  

Of the two I think I may have inherited the gene, at least,  from my grandfather, meaning I have heard that his disease looked a lot like mine. What gives me hope is that medical science has come a long way since 1962.   

Which brings me back to what I was thinking about on the way in this morning.  I don’t know how long I have.  As I stared at that I realized  that none of us knows how long we have.  It is the human condition.  You don’t know if something will happen today, or next week or next month.

Please be grateful for each day.  I get up in the morning and I am grateful that I can breathe. I am grateful that I can still walk.  And I am grateful for my beloved husband, who has not hesitated to step up and walk this journey with me.    

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