For Michael Davidoff, the sky has always been the limit. He ran marathons, competed in triathlons, hiked and biked tall mountains, and even skied double black diamond runs. The father of 3 had always participated in high endurance sports and had even hiked 50 miles in Machu Picchu with his son, so when he began to experience shoulder pain and numbness in his hand, he knew something was wrong.
Michael had some injuries related to skiing and biking, so he initially thought that it may be an orthopedic issue related to those injuries. When he still was not feeling better by the summer of 2021, Michael’s oldest son became concerned that he may have a neuromuscular issue.
“We saw a bunch of doctors, and ultimately saw my orthopedic doctor who was concerned it was more muscular. He referred me to Texas neurology, and a week later that’s where I got the bad news.”
Michael was diagnosed with ALS in September of 2021.
“I saw Doctor Heitzman at Texas Neurology, and I was able to see Doctor Stanley Appel who is a world leading expert. The good news was that both of them told me that my ALS seemed to be atypical and slow progressing.”
As an athlete, Michael is aware of even the subtle changes brought on by ALS. He was able to go skiing in March, and up until recently was still playing pickleball. He does not walk or bike as much as he used to but is grateful for the many things he can still do.
“The first several months after you learn of the diagnosis, you’re pretty shell shocked,” Michael said, “It was very upsetting. Nonetheless, it was just something that I needed to start dealing with.”
He soon learned that one of his neighbors was also living with ALS.
“It’s pretty strange for two people in the same block to have ALS, and [my neighbor] said that he wanted to talk to me about what I learned in Houston. A few days went by, and I didn’t hear from him, so I called him myself, introduced myself, and I made an appointment to go see him. So I walked in, and the first thing I noticed was that he had a ramp. He told me that he was pretty much confined to a wheelchair. He was having difficulty breathing. I told him what I had learned from Doctor Appel and we made a date to get back together.”
Seeing someone who was much younger than him, diagnosed later than he was, and in much worse condition made Michael realize that he could offer help and encouragement to his neighbor and to others going through this difficult journey. He began to look for ways that he could advocate for others with ALS.
He got in touch with the ALS Association of Texas and decided to participate in the Walk to Defeat ALS in Dallas. Through his fundraising, he hopes to make a big impact on his local ALS community and help those who are less fortunate than himself. So far, he has raised over $300,000 for the Walk to Defeat ALS, breaking both state and national records.
“What shocked me from the association standpoint was what the ALS Association of Texas does in terms of loaning equipment and helping people who are less fortunate. I have a breathing machine that I use. It costs $14,000. I’m retired and have the financial means to pay for that, but there are a lot of people who don’t and who need not only financial help but also social services help to get into a clinic or help with questions. So, when I thought about how I could make an impact, I felt like I can make the biggest impact by staying local with ALS Texas.”
Recent advances in ALS research have given Michael hope that one day a cure will be found for ALS.
“It’s not going to happen in my lifetime most likely, but maybe in my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime. 30 years ago, AIDS was a death sentence; there was no cure. Now there is management for that. I hope and pray that we get that way with ALS, and if enough attention and funds are generated from Congress and nonprofits, I think that can be accomplished.”
Michael knows that life with ALS can be difficult, but he keeps a positive attitude by enjoying all of the things he is still able to do. Through it all, he is able to rely on his friends and family to help him remain positive.
“Everything I do is hard, but I can still do it and it makes life worthwhile. I have learned to keep a positive attitude. It’s a hard journey we’re on. Keep a positive attitude and that will be the number one predictor of the quality of life that you live. Although things that once were easier are now difficult, still keep trying to do them.”
Support Texans with ALS, like Michael, by registering for the Walk to Defeat ALS!