My name is Jose Azuaje. I am a 53 year old father to four incredible children, Josmalq, Dair, Zhue and Christell, and husband to my beautiful wife, Iraida. About seven months ago, our world was shaken when I was diagnosed with Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects voluntary muscle movement. Accordingly, I have slowly but surely been losing my mobility, fluidity of speech and ability to eat properly. Unfortunately, this means that working a regular job is no longer an option for me. It has been a sad and difficult process to adjust to the fact that I can no longer work: I have worked since I was seven and it greatly discourages me that I can no longer do so to provide for my family.
Other simple pleasures such as playing tennis and soccer and conversing with friends and family are also becoming increasingly difficult. I often feel embarrassed because, although I hear the words I want to say smoothly in my head, I can no longer convey them as such. However, despite these setbacks, I am blessed to be able to continue drawing, something that I have loved to do my entire life. While my hands are beginning to find more difficulty than they did before, I still find great happiness in sitting down with my art supplies.
Throughout all of this, my wife has been my rock. She has been my strong supporter and everlasting encourager, but she has also had to brave her own battles. Iraida was diagnosed with breast cancer about twenty years ago. Of course, this was incredibly hard for the whole family, but thanks to surgery, radiation and her amazing determination, we were grateful to see her in remission. For the next several years, we were blessed to have her well and healthy, but the cancer returned. A diagnosis of lung cancer that required the complete removal of her right lung took a toll on my family. With the cancer unfortunately spread to her lymphatic system, the odds have been stacked against her, but my amazingly strong and brave Iraida is still here fighting for herself and helping me.
I feel guilty that being sick the way I am keeps me from being able to help my wife and children with tasks I could once do with ease. My family and I are now struggling with neither my wife nor I being capable of working. Unfortunately, this means that my children have had to become the ones supporting the family. With two working full time, one working part time while attending college full time and one still in high school, it is simply impossible to ask them to do or contribute more than they already do.
So I am here to ask for your help. Help in acquiring a van that would allow me to be more mobile, greatly increasing my quality of life and allowing me to continue to do many of the things I love. Through the generosity and care of the ALS Foundation, I have been incredibly blessed to receive an electric wheelchair that enables me to move around my house with relative ease. However, I am not currently able to use this wonderful tool beyond my home. Because we do not have a car that can transport the chair, simple trips to the grocery store or church or just to travel with my family are becoming difficult and will eventually be impossible. That’s why having this van would be a huge blessing in permitting me to interact more with the outside world. Any donation, no matter how small, would be deeply appreciated and make a big difference for my family and me.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. God Bless.
- Skylar Raye
- Erika Wheeler
- Grace Farmer
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