HOUSTON - We all remember and may still be thawing out from the ice bucket challenge, which brought awareness to the illness, ALS. Now, in this Positively Houston, a native Houstonian has another challenge for you involving the disease.
Being a loved one's caregiver can come with its share of stress during what may be some of the last chances you have to enjoy that person. If that's your reality, you are not alone. Chanda Brigance is sharing her heart and her story to help make your life a little easier.
"I’ve been the caregiver for my husband for the last, going on 14 years." In fact, next month is exactly 14 years since OJ Brigance was diagnosed with the degenerative disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which effects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain.
"It was a disease we had to learn about and it was something that really knocked us off our feet," explains Mrs. Brigance.
If Brigance looks familiar, that’s because he graduated from Houston’s Williowridge High School and then Rice University before playing 14 seasons in the NFL. His wife, Chanda Brigance, is also a Houstonian who went to Jesse H. Jones High and Texas Southern University.
"My husband has a trach so he’s not able to speak verbally, but he does speak and communicate through a computer. He will type with his eyes and the computer will speak out loud and it’ll communicate whatever it is he wants to communicate."
One thing Mrs. Brigance wants to communicate to those in similar situations, words you likely are quite familiar with, it isn’t easy being wife and caregiver.
"Be patient, try to be open minded and be understanding and continue to live life in the best way you can. It may look different, but just adjust and continue on."
Brigance is offering emotional and other support for those balancing being a caregiver and a loved one through her foundation, giving talks and her book entitled "Who Cares?", to even help kids and grandkids of those suffering an illness.
"It’s a soft introduction to not only ALS but the relationship between a caregiver and a person who’s needing care. I want kids to also know that when they do see someone that looks a little different, it’s ok."
Team Brigance has adopted this motto: "This is something we’re going to take and make lemonade out of lemons. What can we do to help others?" smiles Mrs. Brigance.
The family also wants you to know, "We’re still trying to make it through. We absolutely don’t think we’ve arrived because it’s a day by day, step by step process," Mrs. Brigance adds.
So what’s her challenge to you? Well, between all the caring for, don’t forget to enjoy your loved one every day.
"We’re still that same Chanda and OJ who met going on 27 years ago and married 27 years ago. We’re still that same couple and still those same people. It just looks a little different, but that’s ok."
Find more from Mrs. Brigance including how to purchase her book at chandaminorbrigance.com.