On August 27, 2016, Gary had his entire life in front of him. In a national forest outside of Denver, he gathered with those closest to him to marry the love of his life. Guests contributed to the three-day, camp-inspired celebration in any way they could, whether it was preparing an Indian feast for the reception, making dreamcatcher decorations, singing Van Morrison at the ceremony, preparing group meals by the fire, or conducting yoga. In a clearing in the woods, lovingly decorated by their friends and family, they read their vows to one another– promising to support each other, for better or for worse... But nothing could prepare them for just how much worse things would soon become.
On December 17, a few short months after the wedding, Gary was diagnosed with ALS. A deluge of tests and misdiagnoses had reached a devastating finality. For months before the wedding, Gary had experienced strange symptoms— minor twitching, weakness in the hands, choking, voice changes. Only those closest to him noticed, though most, including his doctors, attributed the occurrences to stress. He was about to get married, had bought a new home, and had plenty of triggers to cause such a reaction. But as the months drew on, the symptoms got worse, and it was clear there was more than merely stress or a pinched nerve at play.
Home alone one night, Gary's new wife Katie sat in bed binging the docuseries VICE. Around midnight she considered turning in, but decided to watch one last episode, "Die Trying" a look inside the lives of people diagnosed with ALS. Ten minutes into the show, she knew. The way his hands looked; the sound of his voice. Frantic, she researched the best ALS doctors in Denver and made an appointment for Gary. After multiple MRIs and thousands of dollars in medical bills later, they finally received the devastating confirmation.
For those unfamiliar, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, affects the motor neurons in a person's brain and spinal cord, causing muscles to rapidly waste away. ALS patients don't, however, experience any deterioration of the mind, and instead must endure remaining totally aware as the disease robs them of all bodily functions. Unfortunately, after only a few months after diagnosis, Gary is already experiencing major deterioration in his speech, his ability to walk and even simply buttoning his clothes. While there's hope for treatment and remission for those suffering with cancer, there is no stopping ALS. Once it hits it keeps progressing until the person afflicted is paralyzed and unable to communicate entirely. The life expectancy is 2-5 years.
Refusing to wallow in devastation, Gary is doing the only thing he can do— live. His profound ability to confront such tragic circumstances daily and still find the positivity, light, and laughter in life is an inspiration. His will to experience as much as he can while he's still mobile is not only a testament to his strength and courage, but serves as a reminder to us all: life as you know it can be taken from you in an instant; nothing gold can stay. Being present and living life to the fullest should not simply be elusive concepts by which we hope to live, but rather a practiced doctrine at work in our lives.
For Gary, what should have been the beginning of his life as a husband, homeowner, and dog dad, has now turned into a terrifying reality. Every day he must overcome a new struggle and adjust his routine accordingly. Gary already needs help doing even the simplest of tasks, whether it's opening a jar, brushing his hair, or getting dressed. And the nightmare only continues. Soon, Gary will be wheelchair bound. He will require the care of an in-home nurse to assist his wife in making sure his needs are met. His medical bills will continue to pile up. He'll no longer be able to walk, speak, and even breathe without assistance.
Although we can't do anything to reverse the course of this unfair outcome and give Gary the life he deserves back, we can attempt to make the time he has left a little more comfortable. Just as his friends and family banded together to make his wedding day the magical celebration of love and life that it was, we now ask that you come together to ensure that he can live out the rest of his life in dignity and at peace.
If you're in a position to give, please do so by clicking donate. If you're not in a position to give, Gary will also be taking donations from companies for an upcoming benefit in his honor. Volunteer opportunities will soon be available as the inevitable need for constant care arises. Your compassion and generosity are greatly appreciated.
Living With ALS
(News & Updates)
FU ALS Benefit Video
After many months of planning, gathering donations, and so many amazing volunteers helping, the day had arrived. Katie and I were getting ready for our very first event for…
Thanks For The Support!
A few weeks ago Team GarBear hosted the FU ALS fundraising event at the Ogden Theater. It was an beautiful and overwhelming evening. The turnout far surpassed what we had…
FU ALS Photo Booth Pics
Here’s all the pics from the photo booth we had set up front. There’s some pretty good ones in there. It looks like everyone had a blast! I wish…