Judy is the kind of woman who can make you smile in any situation. With a zest for life, unwavering positivity and a witty sense of humour, Judy is an inspiration for what it means to seize today.

At first glance, you wouldn’t know that Judy has ALS. At the age of 64, she is active, mobile and energetic. The only giveaway? She cannot speak. Judy has Bulbar ALS, which affects muscles of the face, head and neck. Her symptoms first appeared in February 2014 while she was vacationing in Florida for the winter. Her speech became slurred before affecting her chewing and swallowing a couple months later. By July 2015, her diagnosis was confirmed. She was shocked because her mobility was unaffected, but she vowed to remain positive in her approach.

One thing that has helped Judy remain positive throughout her ALS journey is pickleball, an indoor game similar to tennis, where players use paddles to hit a wiffle ball over a tennis net on a badminton court. Judy first heard about pickleball while vacationing in Florida. There was an advertisement in the local paper about pickleball lessons at a community gym next door. What started off as a nonchalant decision to sign up for a lesson turned into a deep passion. From that day forward, Judy never stopped playing pickleball.

“It’s one of the main focuses of my everyday life,” says Judy. “It keeps me physically active, healthy and socialized. No matter what state of mind I’m in when I’m heading to play pickleball, on the way home I am always positively pumped up, which is a great spark for the rest of my day.”

Judy’s impact on those around her is unmistakable. She joined her local pickleball club in 2014, around the time her speech was beginning to decline. The members of the club were there as Judy’s condition progressed, and decided to host a fundraising tournament in Judy’s honour. “I was so impressed with the type of tournament they designed and how much time and effort they put into planning and organizing it,” says Judy. “Personally, I feel so grateful to them for initiating this fundraiser on my behalf.”

Since receiving her ALS diagnosis, Judy’s philosophy has become to live every day to its fullest. Rather than thinking about the future, she focuses on the present and how she can participate in get-togethers with family and friends. Whenever she starts to feel upset about her condition, Judy thinks of others who have passed away without having experienced the wonderful life she has had. For example, her mother passed away at the age of 55 of cancer. She feels fortunate to have had three wonderful years since her symptoms started, filled with pickleball, happy hour cocktails, and the love of friends and family.

Judy encourages others in the ALS community to take advantage of everything and everyone in their lives while they can. Although it may be difficult to stay positive throughout the ALS journey, she stresses that one can never know what they will experience in life or for how long. And she has maintained her sense of humour.

“Regardless of my lack of speech,” she jokes, “I can throw out some body language that gets comprehended and laughed at or jubilantly responded to.”

Judy’s approach to life is a lesson to all of us on what it means to live each day to the fullest. ALS may have taken her speech, but it has not taken her passion for living to the fullest, her personality or her positive outlook on life.

During the month of June for ALS Awareness Month, we will be sharing the stories of people living with and affected by ALS who have chosen to seize each day in whatever way they can. You can also share your own stories and reflections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and hashtag #SeizeTodayALS.

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