Good news at my most recent consultation

Since April 2018, I having going in for quarterly consultations and tests at the Carolinas ALS Center at the Neuroscience Institute in Charlotte.  These consultations are nerve-wracking affairs for persons with ALS, as we are always fearing learning about drops in our vitals or our muscle strength (I’ll write a separate blog entry about this).

I just went back in late May for a visit and am happy to report very good news.  I have not only been holding steady in my condition, but I learned from the ALS specialist, Dr. Benjamin Brooks, that most (not all) of my leg muscles have actually increased in strength compared to a year ago, in some cases significantly so. This is pretty unusual. I left the office very happy to be an outlier.

The ALS Center’s findings are the ones that matter the most, but they are not the only yardstick I use. Two other metrics I find useful in  measuring the progression of the disease have also been positive. One is a program called Precision Medicine Program, which  provides me with motion sensors that I wear for one week each month. The exercises I do as part of that program have also shown a steady increase in my leg velocity capacity over the past four months. The other metric is my own set of observations that I record — my measurement of my performance on the elliptical, stationary bike machine, leg weights, and walking to work. None of those has seen slippage over the past year.

I’ve learned that it’s important not to over-interpret these kinds of results. The disease has its own trajectory in each person, including temporary improvements or long periods of stability before a downturn.  But even so, getting stronger is a lot better than the alternative, so I was very pleased to hear Dr. Brooks’ clinical observations.

Why the greater leg muscle strength is occurring is unknown, for now.  The most hopeful interpretation, both for me and for other persons with ALS, is that my body is responding well to the new treatment (Radicava)  that  I’ve been receiving since September.  Radicava was only approved by the FDA in 2017 and we’re still learning about its potential in slowing or stopping ALS progression. It’s part of the bigger picture of a bunch of new therapies medical researchers are developing for ALS and other neurological diseases.


Author: Ken Menkhaus

Professor of Political Science at Davidson College. Specialist on Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Interests include development, statebuilding, informal governance systems, peace and conflict studies, and political Islam. I also teach on philanthropy and the non-profit sector.

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