Mike Maloney will never forget the day in 2012 that his doctor told him he had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The life expectancy for someone with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is about three to five years. On that day, he began coming to grips with the possibility of having about a thousand days to live.
"It was very depressing," said Maloney, who had spent much of his career working in long-term care, but never expected he would be in need of such care at age 60.
"The disease itself is insidious," he said. "It robs you muscle by muscle. There is a disconnect from the brain to the muscle."
He couldn't help but question why this was happening to him, but eventually turned the question upside down.
"I came to realize, 'Why not me? Did I question God's plan when three beautiful daughters came into my life? Did I question God's plan when I woke up and enjoyed good health?'"
Maloney, a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Snyder, credits his Catholic faith for helping him deal with this.
"Faith in God gives us the ability to hope," Maloney said. "We look at this life as being a period of time, and that there is another world, and another life that comes after this."
His inspirational attitude has made him a perfect ambassador for the annual Walk to Defeat ALS which, this year, will be held at Ralph Wilson Stadium on July 31 (www.alsa.org). There are about 30,000 people in the U.S. currently diagnosed with ALS, according to Maloney.
"We need to change the course of this disease," he said. "There will be a cure. It's just a matter of finding the right mixture of what can make the difference."
Maloney plans to complete this year's one mile walk in his power chair. His wife, Ellyn, has stopped her career to become his personal care aide, something he says brings new meaning to the vows they took 41 years ago.
"She's there every day to give me support and encouragement," Maloney said. "We may have never experienced that heightened love that this brings out."
One thousand days have now come and gone since Mike was diagnosed, but he now counts the days by quality, not quantity.
"We all have a line of time. How do we touch other people? If I have another 1,000 days, how am I going to spend those days," said Maloney. "I don't know how much time I'll have, so taking those moments with the grandkids, trying to look at what I can instill in them, how that mark of 'Papa' can be made through the faith and the love that you share with them."
If there's one message that Maloney wants to come out of what he has dealt with for the past 1,000 days, he wants to empower everyone to turn any affliction around.
"To look at finding the reason for living, turning what can be absolute devastation into living life at its fullest each day, because we're only guaranteed the moment that we reside in," he said.