When Eileen Frederick, of Lowell, began experiencing weakness in her leg and foot drop, she didn’t know what the cause might be. She didn’t suspect it was ALS, the disease she and her siblings watched their father battle 31 years earlier.
After countless doctor visits over the course of a year, Eileen was diagnosed with the genetic mutation that causes ALS.
ALS is a rapidly progressive, terminal disease that causes muscle weakness, difficulty speaking and swallowing and, generally, complete paralysis. Approximately 10 percent of all ALS cases are inherited forms, known as familial ALS. Currently there is no known cure for ALS.
Initially, Eileen was in denial. She lived life to the fullest, trying to carry out each day as though her body was healthy. Ultimately, she lost the ability to walk, use her hands and arms, complete everyday tasks and even speak. In December 2017, nearly five years from when her symptoms began, Eileen lost her courageous battle with ALS.
“It was difficult to see Eileen go through so much of what our dad experienced, but we were grateful for advances such as the Dynavox speech device that allowed Eileen to communicate after she lost the ability to talk,” said her sister Mary Moriarty, of Hammond.
“She loved being with friends and family, so having a way to communicate with all of us restored some quality of life to her.”
As a way to support the ALS community and honor Eileen, her family regularly participates in the Les Turner ALS Foundation’s fundraising events.
For the past several years, they have participated in the Strike Out ALS 5k and 1 Mile Run, Walk & Roll at Guaranteed Rate Field. This year’s event will be held on Tuesday, and Eileen’s loved ones will be united at the starting line as Team Eileen.
“We feel it’s important to continue supporting this cause,” Mary said. “Too many lives have been lost to ALS and we need to care for those currently living with the disease and fund research to find a cure.”