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    Posted November 16, 2012 by
    Atlanta, Georgia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    CNN Fit Nation: 2013 Triathlon Challenge

    Regaining Independence

    My name is Melissa, I'm 21 years old and am about to graduate from Kennesaw State University. I've been interning for The Bert Show for over a year, and was inspired by seeing Jeff Dauler's transformation first hand.

    From July of 2010 until May of 2012, I watched my dad fight and lose the most terrible disease of them all - Lou Gehrig's Disease.

    Lou Gehrig's Disease (also know as ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Ultimately, you become a prisoner in your own body. You lose the ability to speak, eat, drink, swallow, move, walk, and eventually breathe.

    For two years I watched my dad choke on his food, drinks and even his own saliva. In June of 2011, he stopped speaking. The disease took his ability to form words. For the last 11 months of his life, he spoke with an Ipad.

    Long story short, in February of this year, he had to have an emergency tracheotomy to allow him to continue to breathe. He spent three months in the hospital while we looked for a hospice that would take care of him for 24 hours a day. He finally came home on May 7th, and died on May 20th.

    If there is one thing I learned from watching this horrific disease, is that you should never take your body for granted. My dad was really lucky and was mobile until the last three months of his life. I know a thirty year old man living with this disease that is in a motorized wheelchair and is losing the ability to move his arms, as well as beginning to choke on his speech. Patients like him would give anything to be able to stand in the shower, to feed themselves, to do anything that involves some independence.

    Those of us who have control of our bodies have complete independence. We need to take care of our independence – and I don’t. I’ve made excuses since I was fourteen and stopped playing soccer for why I haven’t worked out. The time is now for me to stop.

    I want to do this triathlon to gain control and to stop taking my body and my independence for granted.
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