Transcript

Judy Woodruff: For 30 years, Dr. Joel Shamaskin was a primary care physician in Rochester, New York. Then he received a life-changing diagnosis.

Tonight, he offers his Brief But Spectacular take on living with ALS.

Dr. Joel Shamaskin, Retired Primary Care Physician: The first winter after I was diagnosed with ALS, I was admiring the snow-covered pines near our home, and recall wondering how many more times I get to enjoy that.

But, as seasons pass and years pass, I realized I wasn’t dying from ALS. I was living with it.

I’m a retired primary care physician. I was, unfortunately, forced to retire early because of my ALS diagnosis six years ago. People inevitably lose the ability to walk, move, eat, speak, and breathe. Unfortunately, there is no known cure.

Shortly after my diagnosis, I knew I wanted to get involved in the ALS community. I liken ALS advocacy to a long-distance relay, where they know they’re working for the same goal. After my diagnosis, I could feel myself internalizing the identity of a disabled person.

I look at people in wheelchairs and I feel this connection to them. And I think about the things that I know my grandchildren get out of seeing me with a physical limitation.

I know that their watching me gives them a respect for people who have physical differences. So, even though I can’t run around with them, I’m giving them something that’s less tangible.

After I’m gone, I think that the way I have lived is what I want my kids and wife and family to remember.

My name is Joel Shamaskin, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on living with ALS.

Judy Woodruff: Dr. Shamaskin, what a gift not just to people with disabilities, but to all of us.

Thank you.