No recipe today. At least not one that has specific measurements and baking times. Instead, I’m just thinking about the goals I want to set for myself in this upcoming year and thinking about something that really motivates me to pursue the things I love.
Yesterday I received the sad news that one of our friends, Dr. Andy Schroeder, was being transferred to hospice care due to the diagnosis of ALS he received almost three years ago. If you don’t know what ALS is, to put it mildly, it is probably the worst way to go. Average life expectancy from diagnosis is 3-5 years. ALS destroys all voluntary muscle function. What’s worse, your brain is not affected — so you are literally trapped in a body that doesn’t work. You lose the ability to move your limbs, to talk, swallow, then breathe. Yesterday, Andy’s wife, Teresa, wrote on his caringbridge site that he only has a few days to a week left in this life. I am still in disbelief.
Andy is more than just a former chiropractor to us. He is a super cool dude, has the most sarcastic sense of humor, and is actually kind of shy and awkward at times…a real person. Dan got to know Andy through a local networking group and they hit it off. I remember we drove past Andy’s office and my husband proudly beamed saying, “Look — there’s where my new doctor works. He drives a pick-up truck!” Yep, that was Andy. An Iowa boy just hanging in Palatine helping other people. Andy is exactly our age, which makes his diagnosis rather unique. Most people are not diagnosed with ALS when they are 36 years old. Most people aren’t diagnosed with this terminal disease when they just had their first son three months earlier. Most people aren’t diagnosed with ALS when they are marathon runners in prime shape. It just doesn’t seem fair at all.
Andy healed my distrust of chiropractic care after mismanagement of my back pain by another area doctor that ended with me getting spinal surgery six weeks after the birth of my second child. I didn’t want to be adjusted by anyone. ever. again. However, the pain I was experiencing after having the majority of my disc gone and arthritis in my low back drew me to seek out a new doctor. Andy listened to me and didn’t adjust my back for quite some time. Instead, he sent me to get an M.R.I. so he knew exactly what was going on. He let me get theraputic massage regularly and hooked me up to what looked like some medieval torture device, his prized DRX machine. This is a specialty machine that few chiropractors have because of its cost, but it specifically helps relieve pressure on the lumbar spine and actually encourages disc material to heal by gradually pulling the spine apart and releasing it. Sounds fun, right? It was a huge help, though. Unfortunately, Andy had to sell his machine to be able to budget for the upcoming expenses he and his family would be incurring due to his health. Despite my distrust of chiropractic care, I eventually let Andy adjust me and he did a wonderful job helping me manage my back pain. I have seen several doctors and chiropractors in my life, but have never met another doctor like him. We miss him!
About six months after Andy’s diagnosis, he made sure his patients were in good hands because he was unable to count on his own hands to heal people. Andy moved to Florida with his wife and young son because they have family there and the warmer weather would be easier on him. At this point he was walking with a cane while his own son was just beginning to learn to crawl and walk on his own. Talk about some wicked irony. Facebook was a wonderful way to every so often get some funny status updates from Andy, described as a “Man of Leisure” — but the posts started to become fewer and farther between over the last year. The last few truly Andy posts on his timeline are from this summer where he pokes fun at his declining speech by saying, “I don’t think my speech is getting worse. I can always understand me. I just think more people in this world need hearing aids. Just a thought.” And in August he wrote, “For those of you who don’t feel like working out today…go do it and enjoy it. I sure could stand to go for a jog.”
So this leaves me with the reason for this post. I want to go out and enjoy things. I want to pursue things I have been putting off, like writing this blog, pursuing some sort of career in food, and just being the best me that I can be. Out of this extremely sad and unfortunate situation with Andy, I take inspiration. This is a new year and a new me. I appreciate you, Dr. Andy, for everything you’ve done and all you stand for. I hope they play a lot of Metallica up in heaven!