Beyond the Ice Water

I’ve been fascinated by the phenomenon that is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and thanks to my best friend Casey for nominating me to give my two cents – literally and figuratively.

Ok, so you poured ice water on your head…. Now what? Over the past few weeks of seeing this all over social media I found myself wondering what is going on here and why are so many participating. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what ALS was. I now know that it is a neurological disease that slowly causes nerve cells to break down and die. It is a painful condition, it weakens muscles, causes them to atrophy. ALS severely, negatively impacts quality of life. What causes ALS is not particularly known, however research has uncovered some information I thought was very interesting. It could be hereditary (5-10% of cases) though the majority of people who are diagnosed do not have a relative who has it. The Mayo Clinic has a brief synopsis if you’re interested in reading more about posited causes. Also interesting are the risk factors: age – cases are typically not diagnosed until middle age; sex – more men than women get ALS; smoking – appears to double the risk; also lead exposure, military service, and lyme infection all seem to increase the risk for ALS. Wow. I had no idea. I really applaud this campaign for bringing awareness to a disease that impacts tens of thousands of people and their families. This Ice Bucket Video broke my heart. If you only watch one more video, watch this one:

Some things that this guy said really struck me. He points out that because those afflicted are in the tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands or even millions, this disease has not gotten a lot of attention. He understandably, frustratingly laments that drug companies do not find it profitable to invest in research. He asks “Am I not worth saving?” Fortunately there are other health institutions and advocacy organizations who do give a damn because everyone is worth it. Everyone deserves to have some care and compassion shown to them, especially when suffering from health issues, everyone needs support. This young man (I did not catch his name!) also points out that this is the first successful advocacy that ALS has had, so even though it may seem like a silly gimmick, I applaud the Ice Bucket Challenge.

I looked into a bunch of ALS organizations, I think it’s important to do your due diligence when making a monetary donation. I felt best about supporting Compassionate Care ALS. I like that they are all about caring for and supporting ALS patients, their families, and caregivers. Making a difference in the day-to-day, everyday. I also appreciated the page on their site that highlights some holistic approaches, going beyond prescription medication and treating the whole patient – mind, body, and spirit. As for alternative/ supplemental care, research has shown that acupuncture greatly benefits the nervous system, and there are herbal remedies that can help repair nerve damage. Also the Harvard School of Public Health did a study on ALS that shows how a diet rich in anti-oxidants especially from brightly colored vegetables high in vitamin E can dramatically reduce the risk of getting the disease.

Furthermore, I feel that this whole campaign has helped bring awareness on an even larger scale, starting a conversation about health, charity and giving back, and even conservation.

We don’t realize the freedom that good health allows us until we get sick. I personally don’t know anyone with ALS, but I know plenty of people, family and friends who have had to battle other diseases, some have won and some have lost, and some are learning to have to cope every single day. I hate cancer. I have seen way too much of it. Consider donating to cancer research, there is so much work to be done there. Medical advances happen through research! HIV and AIDS used to be a terrifying diagnosis but now it can be managed very well through medication, diet, exercise, good self care. Yet, even though good progress has been made, there is more that can be done especially on a global scale.

Monetary donations make a difference. But how else can we make a difference? There is the good we can do more directly – to invest time, and energy, and love. To look into the eyes of that homeless man that hangs out by your Starbucks, learn his name, say good morning and offer to buy him a cup of coffee or a spinach feta wrap, even if he turns you down every time. Who do you have a heart for? You could be a mentor, a big brother or sister. You could volunteer for hospice or a food bank or soup kitchen. Life is fuller and richer when we connect, when we care, when we love and serve one another.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy.

~ Rabindranath Tagore

Finally, I know a lot of people are making a big to-do about water wastage from the challenge. We are in a serious drought. We should not be wasting water – do your part to conserve! Consider, 1 minute in the shower uses 5 gallons of water; one toilet flush is about 4 gallons. How much water in one ice bucket? Sure it varies, but probably less than a gallon. Still, if you do it make sure you stand in your garden, make some plants happy. Or you could use pool water and stand over the diving board; you could even use ocean water. Don’t be cranky. Lighten up! It’s pretty amusing to watch video clips of your friends pouring ice water on their heads and it has raised awareness and funds for a good cause. That being said…. I’m not going to do it! Sorry I’m not sorry. I’ll give you license though to push me into the pool someday with my clothes on. That sounds like more fun to me than dousing myself with ice water! (I may regret this later!)

Now, this is the gift that keeps on giving! So I will nominate my dad, Graig Larsen, and my dear friend Krista Behrens to accept this challenge in their own way. Love you!


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