Wherever our place is in all of this, that’s where I want to go. – Nick Sloan
As a husband, father, and Marine Veteran, Nick Sloan understands the value of service to one’s family, country, and community. Despite receiving a devastating ALS diagnosis in September 2020, he continues to build a legacy that will last far beyond his lifetime. For this year’s ALL in for ALS Poker Tournament, we are honoring Nick Sloan as our ALS Hero.
Discovering a Passion for Service
Nick was born and raised in Texas and married his high school sweetheart, Shanda. Before their marriage and after graduating high school, Shanda attended college at Baylor University in Waco and Nick enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Nick served in the Marines for eight years and deployed to several locations overseas. He described his service as one of the best decisions of his life because of the sense of direction it provided. “It ingrained in me an esprit de corps and a sense of duty to serve and protect people that has stuck with me ever since.”
Even after retiring from the military, Nick continues to help and protect others through his service. He previously worked for the City of Dallas for the Dallas Fire and Rescue Department. Now he works with Baylor Scott & White overseeing their emergency management department.
Their marriage is now going on 19 years. Today, they call Sunnyvale, a suburb of Dallas, home with their four children and two dogs.
A Path to Diagnosis
Like others with the disease, Nick found it difficult to narrow down when his symptoms appeared. He recalls noticing intense muscle cramping last spring in addition to muscle atrophy and extreme morning fatigue.
Nick’s search for answers continually pointed him back to ALS. “The top things that stood out in terms of the description of what ALS is was that I was within the age range and I was twice as likely to be diagnosed as a military veteran.” After a long process of seeing specialists and performing tests to determine the cause of these symptoms, he visited Texas Neurology. Their team of doctors put him on the ALS protocol.
Nick wasn’t surprised to receive a formal ALS diagnosis on September 8, 2020. “It’s sad, no doubt about it…but there was a sense of relief over me because there were several things within my attack plan that I couldn’t go after, I couldn’t start the fight in many ways,” he shared
Attack Life Sloan
What should have been a bleak moment, Nick used to bring hope and light. “I opened up a new note on my iPhone and instead of calling it ALS…I need an acronym…So it quickly morphed into Attack Life Sloan: my fight plan for what I was going to do every day and every week if I was diagnosed.”
Nick’s philosophy before ALS was to constantly move forward and seek opportunities for growth, while inspiring his children to do the same. ALS has not diminished that spirit. “Surrender is not in our creed. We’re not going to stop just because of some adversity in our lives. I still have life left to live on this earth.”
Friends and family of the Sloan family rallied around him after diagnosis, embracing the phrase Attack Life Sloan and using it as a rallying cry to support the family. Today, Nick sees Attack Life Sloan as a way to serve the ALS community.
“I feel called to do something and advocate, use this disease somehow with the time I have left on earth…Make an impact in the broader sense,” said Nick.
“We can pull that thread of, ‘Hey why are veterans twice as likely to be diagnosed?’ and still at the same time improve the general population’s experience with ALS.”
Embracing the ALS Texas Community
Nick first reached out to the ALS Association of Texas last summer once he came to suspect he would be diagnosed with the disease. “I think it’s been great, there’s so much to learn…It’s nice that the Association can simplify some of those things for us.” From equipment loans to support groups, Nick and Shanda know that ALS Texas is just a phone call away whenever they need them.
In true fashion, Nick has already embraced service in the ALS Texas community mere months after being diagnosed. He helps to lead a new veteran support group that ALS Texas launched this year. His family and friends even participated in the 2020 Walk to Defeat ALS, raising over $13,000 with their team: #AttackLifeSloan.
Keeping Hope Alive
It would be easy for the Sloan family to become discouraged by ALS, but they keep their hope alive. They dream that one day, we’ll live in a world without ALS. Nick wants significant energy brought forth from policy makers, legislators, and financial contributors regarding ALS. He hopes we can find better ways to detect the disease, better treatments, and ultimately a cure.
In the meantime, Nick continues to attack life every day, leaving a remarkable legacy of service and sacrifice for those that will follow him. “He has always been passionate about leaving a legacy…whether it’s through our kids or what he does in his work,” Shanda shared.
When asked how to inspire others with the disease, Nick without hesitation replied, “I would inspire them to attack life. I would inspire them to stay positive…absolutely keep on living, living life to the fullest.”