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With ALS, Trick or Treat and Thanksgiving: Giving thanks for another holiday together

Mark Johnson, center, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) 11 years ago and has far outlived doctors' expectations. He's pictured with his mother and father, Lea and Terry. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

To our community:

Special holidays are special to different people for a lot of different reasons. Halloween is special for Mark Johnson because on that day in 2000 a dirty trick fell upon him.
He was told he had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This disease is fatal on the average of  two to five years. He was given 18 months to live.
Mark has two daughters that he really wanted to see graduate from high school. The oldest, Lindsey, had two years to go. So a lot of prayers were given on his behalf along with the one’s he offered.
Needless to say, this Thanksgiving is very special for the Johnson family and friends this year. Mark finished his 11th year with ALS and is still not in a wheel chair or bedfast. He is able to volunteer at the hospital and the chamber of commerce. He has been able to see his daughters graduate from high school.
Lindsey, the oldest, has graduated from college and Mark was there to walk her down the aisle for her wedding. She now teaches school in North Carolina. Taylor, the younger one, is in her senior year in college in Alabama.
The turkey will taste really good this year and the family will feel gratefully blessed knowing that Mark is still with us. He deals with this disease every day. He has given up driving and depends on others to take him to work or wherever he needs to go.
Daily, he fights problems with breathing. Because of his shaking, he sometimes has problems eating, so making adjustments is a constant challenge for him. He handles it all in stride with no complaints
This year we got a real treat for having Mark with us after 11 years.  This Thanksgiving Day will be even more special when we think of all the blessings that are ours to share.
Mark has a very big support group that celebrates with him. Besides his family and his brothers’ families he has a host of high school and college friends who keep track of him on Facebook and by e-mail.
Mark has lived in Richmond over  six years and has made a lot of friends along with the Rural Missouri ALS Support Group, the Ray County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
Almost all of our Richmond merchants have supported the Johnson-Templeton ALS Golf Classic and the annual ALS walk to De’feet ALS.
Mark is the exception to the average life span for ALS patients and this gives a lot of hope to the new patients and their families that have to deal with this dreaded disease.  Mark speaks to different service clubs and works with ALS patients and families in making plans for the next step they may have to take.
Yes we have been tricked, but the treat is so much sweeter having Mark with us this Thanksgiving. We wish all a very happy Thanksgiving.

– Leamon Johnson,
Mark Johnson’s father and founder of the Rural Missouri ALS Support Group

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One Response to With ALS, Trick or Treat and Thanksgiving: Giving thanks for another holiday together

  1. Marty Murray

    December 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Mark is doing a great job of keeping himself going and is a great example of what anyone diagnosed with als can do.

    Als is in fact completely solvable and positive attitude like Mark’s can be the foundation in making that happen.

    To further understand how als is created and how it can be solved see my work along with the work of Gabor Mate, Craig Oster, Steven Shackel, Evy McDonald, Bruce Lipton, David Atkinson and Dean Ornish, among others.

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