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Michael Cox’s ALS Journey

My husband Michael has lived in Colorado most of his life. He worked in the oil industry before joining construction industry and working in every facet of construction roofing, siding, decking, remodeling and new construction. He was even the general contractor when we built our home in Florence in 2005.

I met Michael on a business trip to Denver from Seattle Washington where I lived for 20 years! I know this sounds like a cliché, but I met Michael in a restaurant bar, where he had gone to meet up with his brother for a beer and I was there with some friends from work. In 1988, my company was downsizing, I either had to move to Denver or lose my job. I moved to Denver and we started dating and married in 1990.

When Michael and I married, he was working in the mailroom of a big corporation and hated everything about it. I told him to quit and do something he loved instead. With a sigh of relief, he quit almost immediately and took up working in construction again. He owned his own construction company and 8-9 years later, we decided to move from Denver to a smaller community. Feeling that Canon City, where his parents lived, was still a little big, we chose Florence, Colorado, with a population of 3,400!

While managing his family’s mortuary, we decided that Michael would take a year off while he figured out what he wanted to do until retirement. Almost exactly a year later, I found a job advertisement for a County Building Inspector, and left it on the table where Michael had his coffee each morning, so he would see it and apply. With one hour left until the application window closed, Mike hurriedly left his golf game with friends and applied. Nothing like putting off something until the very end; Michael’s motto in life I swear! He retired 20 years later in January 2020.

In 2005, we decided to build a new home and drew up the plans ourselves, designing the house of our dreams. At that time, Michael’s stepfather needed a wheelchair, so we designed the house to include handicapped access, such as no steps into the house, doors and entry ways wide enough for a wheelchair and all the rooms were extra big to make it easier for his stepfather. Little did we know that Michael would need the handicap access himself 16 years later.

In 2018, Michael started experiencing weakness in his legs. If he squatted down, it was difficult to get back up to a standing position. Then he found that he would trip and have difficulties getting back up. After a visit with his physician, it was noted that Michael had drop-foot in his right foot. He was prescribed a foot brace to wear with his shoes. Michael experienced horrible cramps in his legs, and you could visually see his muscles moving constantly. Michael’s back started to hurt, due to the issues with his legs and feet. His physician sent him to another doctor to have a procedure done on his back, thinking that was the problem. The second doctor said he felt that the procedure wouldn’t help, and that Michael needed to see a neurologist. After all the tests, Michael was officially diagnosed with ALS in June 2019.

Michael was gifted a little scooter which sat in the garage for about 12 months. Michael was adamant that he wasn’t going to ask for more help until absolutely needed! Even though I pleaded with him to ask me for assistance with the little things, he refused stating that eventually I would have to do most everything for him, so he didn’t want to start asking too soon.

It made it so much harder for him, but he still tries to do most for himself without asking. One weekend, when his oldest daughter was visiting, they were going in and out of the garage looking through boxes that he had packed from his office for retirement. It was so tiring for him that he decided to use the little red scooter and it was then that he found it was sooooo much easier and started to use it daily!

The scooter was a Godsend and so appreciated, but by 2021, it just wasn’t enough to meet Michael’s needs. The doctor ordered a power chair for Michael, which goes up and down, lays down, stands up, and he can even get high enough to look me in the eyes and kiss me! By this time, Michael couldn’t ambulate anymore, but he could still transfer and as time went on, it was harder and harder for him to do so without assistance and falling.

Eventually, he couldn’t transfer himself and the ALS United Rocky Mountain kindly loaned us the use of a shower buddy system that allowed Michael to continue taking a shower. The hoyer lift, which also came from the ALS United Rocky Mountain, allowed me to transfer him when he couldn’t himself. Initially we kept it just sitting in the bedroom until we absolutely needed it an now we use it at least 3 times a day!

Instead of listing everything that Michael is unable to do anymore, we list everything that he is able to do today; play games on his phone, hold a conversation, watch the Bronco’s games, tell a joke and laugh, eat three meals a day, snore and get about 5 hours a sleep every night!

We don’t know where this disease will take us next, or what life will bring us. Each day is hard and each week is just a little harder than the last, but we both appreciate the years, months, days and hours that God has given us together!

– Mrs. Cox

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