Honoring Our Champion’s Decade of Strength
A Reflection by O.J. Brigance:
May 16th, 2007, I received official confirmation of what I had long suspected, I have ALS! Believing that I could overcome any obstacle if given the opportunity has always been my mindset. Athletically, academically, socially, though there are setbacks and challenges, there was generally a playbook of how to deal with it and proceed ahead with life. Not so with this monster.
When ALS intruded on my life, on our lives, at the most inopportune time, there was no playbook of how to live with ALS! We didn’t know what the future held, but surrender was never an option. Many times we think we are limited in our options because of man’s opinions. In the case of our diagnosis, death was presented as the sole option. Oftentimes, humanity seems to believe that improbable means the impossible. I was very fortunate to learn early in life that all things are possible to him that believes! Faith to believe in what we know in our spirits is our God vision, even though outward facts contradict our vision, this is the key to seeing them come to fruition. I believed from day one that I would live in spite of ALS and help others on the same journey to live also.
Thanks to the grace of God, loving family and friends, and a great medical team, I have been blessed to live 10 years in the impossible. Not that living with ALS has been easy by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite. It has often been an uphill, frustrating battle. But continual faith, hope and perspective will always outlast the fires of adversity. I have been fortunate to make meaningful contributions to society post diagnosis because I refuse to believe that hardship eliminates one’s purpose. It takes patient, perseverance to stay the course when life tries to deliver a fatal blow! Take inventory of the gifts that you still possess and put them to use for the greater good.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us with your time, talents and finances. We couldn’t accomplish this great work without you! Blessings!
A Reflection by Chanda Brigance:
(Excerpts taken from questions answered by Chanda Brigance on the anniversary of her husband’s diagnosis.)
A Diagnosis of ALS:
Some people might think that we are celebrating the anniversary of my husband’s diagnosis of a fatal disease, but that’s not what we are celebrating…we are celebrating LIFE! I am celebrating that my husband of 23 years is still here on earth, living life. When he was diagnosed with ALS, in May of 2007, he was given a life expectancy of 2 to 5 years. I am EXCITED to shout and jump with joy that my husband is still LIVING LIFE and is in his 10th year of living with ALS despite the original expectancy presented to him. It is not at all about celebrating the diagnosis, it is EVERYTHING about CELEBRATING LIFE.
The biblical scripture states that… “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Lord God) have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
On May 16, 2007, when I first heard the diagnosis of ALS, I remember thinking that I did not know anything about the disease – what is ALS?! How long does it last? How is it treated? That day changed our lives forever.
The hardest part about telling friends and family was simply getting the words out of my mouth, and then watching their faces drop with sadness, concern, questions, and tears…
Living with ALS:
After being diagnosed with ALS, many things are a struggle. A few things I particularly miss… I miss the two of us not being able to jump into the car, or jump on a flight, and take off for a joyful getaway. I miss going out to dinner just the two of us and laughing and talking about whatever comes to mind. I miss not being able to hang out with friends and/or family during special events or occasions, and seeing friends and family less often. But despite these things, O.J. and I have one another, and we have an incredible bond that we treasure.
Maintaining the ability to laugh has also helped during the difficult times. I know someone’s first thought would be that there is absolutely nothing funny about being diagnosed with ALS, but sometimes, laughter is medicine to the soul. As my amazing mother taught me growing up, “sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.”
When someone first mentioned bringing on nursing care to us, all I heard was that I was less than a wife, that I couldn’t take care of my own husband. I was very upset and had to deal with negative thoughts about being perceived as a wife who is not taking care of her husband. I remember having such an internal battle with myself and vowing that no one will come into my home, or my marriage, and take care of my husband better than I can.
But I moved past those feelings, and am so very blessed that I did. Bringing on outside nursing care was an incredible blessing that I am extremely thankful for. In addition to the fact that I am not a nurse by trade, I realized that having a nurse gives me a chance to breathe. We are all human and sometimes we need time to rest, recharge, or renew our mind, bodies and spirit.
I have learned so much about myself since our ALS diagnosis. In life, we look at challenges and tell ourselves we could never do that, or handle that…but through all of this, I have learned to never say never. I was raised by a strong, single mom who taught my sister and I to be strong, but through this journey with ALS, I have learned that the strength that was within me growing up is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the strength I have had to pull from in the last ten years.
When you are a caregiver of a person with ALS, it brings out a decision in you… the decision to walk away, or the decision to stay in the fight and work towards the victory. I chose to stay, I want to win the fight and get the victory for O.J. and myself. ALS only wins if we give up and give in.
“…but those who hope in the Lord, will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31)
The Anniversary’s Sparkling Theme:
Anniversaries and milestones are often linked to a particular material, theme or gem which symbolizes the meaning behind the event. We find it extremely appropriate that a diamond is the gemstone of the 10 year anniversary, especially as it relates to O.J.’s own outlook over the last 10 years.
According to Crystalvaults.com, which gathered information from a number of books and resources on the meaning behind diamonds, the diamond “has an unconquerable hardness and has been known since antiquity as a ‘Stone of Invincibility,’ bringing victory, superior strength, fortitude and courage to its wearer.” Diamonds are thought to be a symbol of love and fidelity, strength of character, ethics, and faithfulness to oneself and others. The diamond is also considered to be a spiritual stone, enhancing inner vision and stimulating creativity, faith and endurance.
Faith, fortitude, endurance and love…who do those words make you think of? To the Brigance Brigade Foundation, those words encompass O.J. Brigance. Our leader has shown he possesses these qualities and more during the last 10 years and we are proud to weave the diamond theme throughout all of our efforts this year in his honor.
Like a diamond, O.J. has the incredible ability to reflect his light in special manner and display all of the colors the of the gems from which his character was made.
One of the ways we are pulling the diamond theme through the Brigance Brigade Foundation this year is to honor multi-year supporters of O.J. and Chanda’s vision as part of our Diamond Club! These partners are like brilliant diamonds who selflessly share their sparkle with the ALS community, and we want to honor those supporters that have pledged their involvement yet again this year by recognizing them in our Diamond Club. Thank you to each and every one of our Diamond Club partners for your continued support!
In addition to inspiring people across the country with his words and awe-inspiring positivity and determination, O.J., together with Chanda, has helped so many families who are battling ALS through equipment donations, support services and resource guidance. Below is a sample of the stories and quotes we have received, click here to read more.
“During this difficult time it was good to know that there was an organization that offered support and help.” – JH
“Most philanthropic organizations consider ALS as a hopeless cause, but not Mr. Brigance and his organization. He is sincere about helping a person with ALS and I am sincerely grateful to the Brigade for paying for three months of home health care for me.” -AK
“Once you’re in this position, you want to give up. Not me. I’ve always had a goal and a dream. I won’t give up and it’s the reason why I know I can do this even though I can’t walk.” – AG
“I have seen how expensive simple things can be and how necessary they are.” – EM
“It was heart breaking to watch. My mom tried to keep control of her life, but there were so many areas she could not control.” – O
To make a contribution to the Brigance Brigade Foundation on behalf of O.J. Brigance’s 10 year anniversary, please click the button below.