Living For Now: Linda Sheridan Battles ALS | Community Spirit
When we profiled former Coug Steve Gleason earlier this month about his battle with ALS, we heard from several people who all said the same thing: You need to talk to Linda Sheridan. Sheridan is a coaching legend in Spokane - the most successful prep coach in GSL history - and, she's also facing this devastating disease.
I really wanted to talk to Linda, but had heard from many people who know her well that she has been very private with the diagnosis and that getting an interview may be impossible. So, I made a call to one of the people who Linda coached - and, yesterday, we sat in Linda's interview as she shared her thoughts on this new chapter in her life.
Make no mistake: Linda Sheridan didn't talk to me because she thinks I'm some awesome reporter. She didn't do it because she wants attention. She didn't do it as a favor to her former player, who used to work here and helped us arrange the interview. Linda talked to us for one reason and one reason only: to raise awareness about the organization of volunteers that is helping Linda and her partner adjust to the new challenges in their lives.
"I want them to get some attention," she told me. "And, I would really like people to send them some money."
First, Linda. People who know her casually have asked one question: how is she doing? It's hard for me to say. I didn't know Linda before yesterday. All I know of her life before ALS is what I've seen in dusty, old videotapes in the KXLY archives - and, the stories I've heard from people who were lucky enough to play for her. She's walking fine, though she says her legs are starting to go; during our interview, she sat casually on her couch with one foot tucked underneath her. She looked comfortable. Her voice sounds great. The biggest change so far is her right hand - and, the fact she can't exercise. She was told not to, as she only has so much muscle strength left. For some of us, being told we don't need to work out again is a gift.
For Linda - who was a daily exerciser for life - it's a major change in her lifestyle. There are things that get harder every day, like using her computer and holding utensils. But, Linda's spirit and positive outlook are 100% intact. In the short time I spent with her, she taught me a lot about living in the moment.
"You find the pleasure in the most unusual moments - that usually slip by in a day that's filled with careers and stresses and strains of whatever. You don't notice today that you saw the first birds twitterpating outside. It just changes things. And, it's a good change."
Now, for the organization that Linda wants to recognize. The ALS Service Organization is made up entirely of volunteers. As one of them told me, everyone involved has either "loved someone or lost someone to ALS." Unfortunately, they've seen the declining health of someone close to them - now, they're committed to helping others through those same challenges.
The president of that organization is a wonderful man named George Akers. George had 50 years with his wife Betty; he lost her within five months of her ALS diagnosis. Even though George is pushing 80, he's involved every day helping patients through their daily lives. They're not out researching for a cure, they're making meals and weeding gardens and washing windows. They know that holding a spoon can be hard, so they give patients spoons with foam on them so they're easier to hold. They know what's coming before the patient does. They help before they're even asked.
Linda's story is a powerful one - partly, because of who she is. 25 years as a teacher and coach puts you in touch with a lot of people. But her story is remarkable because, like Steve Gleason, she's turning the attention on others instead of focusing on what she's dealing with. In fact, she prefers it that way.
"Everybody goes through this," she said of the life and death struggle she's now facing. "The thing that's really wonderful is to contuinue to see people in their wellness, support their wellness - to know that living in this moment, finding something in this day that was fun and special is the most important thing I do."
I hope you'll watch Linda's story Friday night at 6 p.m. and learn something about living life to its fullest. I hope you'll watch our special report Sunday night about Steve and Linda's battle - and about how all of us can help. And, for Linda's sake, I hope you'll donate a couple hours or a couple bucks to the organization that's helping her - and, has the potential to help so many more.
If you'd like to learn more about ALSSO and to donate - whether it's time or money - please visit their website.