2009-06-24 / Front Page

Lou Gehrig's disease victim's book outlines tools to overcome adversity

love, faith, joy, hope, laughter, festivity, determination, sense of purpose, will to live, prayer, friendship, exercise and remembering the past
By JOE L. HUGHES II Ledger Staff Writer joe@gaffneyledger.com

Sarah England Bonner was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, by two neurologists in 1990. Sarah England Bonner was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, by two neurologists in 1990. Without a doubt, Aquilla Littlejohn loves coming to work.

Each afternoon, the local caregiver goes to school, being in the presence of local resident Sarah England Bonner, a retired educator who spent 35 years molding lives as a teacher and principal.

No desks, pens or pencils are needed for this particular class though, only a receptive mind ready for learning simple lessons in life, the first of which is that during life's darkest days we must always see the bright side of any situation.

"I have been with her for the past six years, and during that time can tell you (Bonner) has been in a bad mood only a few times in my presence,"

Littlejohn said. "I can count the number of times on my hand; it takes a lot to get her to take the smile off her face."

Living for years with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, each day brings obstacles for Bonner to overcome. An ailment that progressively causes muscles to weaken due to the degeneration of nerve cells, the life expectancy for a person diagnosed with ALS ranges from three to five years.

There is no known cure for ALS.

However, Bonner has let everyone know she will not go down without a fight, living more than a decade after first being diagnosed with the disease by two neurologists in 1990. Though the ailment has taken many of the abilities she once considered simple, the local woman said it will take much more than ALS to steal her joy.

"This disease has taken my ability to speak effectively, limited the use of my arms and hands, my ability to walk and causes me to sometimes choke when I eat," Bonner said. "But I like to fill my life with fun and laughter, the positive things; it really makes a difference."

Hoping to give others hope for the roller coaster called life, Bonner has written the book, "Coping With Life's Difficulties: Making a Difference In My Life and The Lives of Others," offering 13 tools to recovery that can be used in the face of all types of adversity.

"I believe life is a precious gift from God and it should be cherished in the face of any adversity — disappointment, pain, disability and even death," Bonner said. "Hopefully this can make a difference in people's lives."

In the book, Bonner demonstrates how she managed her life in spite of everyday difficulties and obstacles. Using Norman Cousins' "Book of Hope" and personal beliefs as a point of reference, the longtime educator compiled a list of 13 tools — love, faith, joy, hope, laughter, festivity, determination, sense of purpose, will to live, prayer, friendship, exercise and remembering the past — all with the purpose of helping everyone cherish their days here on Earth.

"I believe with the help of these tools, we can strengthen and enrich our lives," Bonner said. For information on how to obtain a copy of Bonner's book, call (864) 489-6767; or (864) 489-2620.

ABOUT ALS

The onset of ALS is insidious with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.

ALS is not contagious.

It is estimated that ALS is responsible for nearly two deaths per hundred thousand population annually.

Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.

ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.

ALS can strike anyone.

SOURCE; The ALS

Association

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