I am Kristin Rankin
living with ALS
But, most of all, my daughters (now aged 14, 11, and 9) have inspired me to live life to the fullest and stay hopeful. They make me smile every day and keep me grounded in the moment.
I was a busy working mom to three little girls when I found out, at the age of 38, that I had ALS. It took over a year for me to fully accept the diagnosis and start slowing down my pace, including no longer teaching classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health (UIC-SPH), which I had loved. I also eventually had to stop walking my girls to the park and playing softball with my girlfriends on the weekends, among other activities I enjoyed.
Over the past six years since my diagnosis, I’ve lost the ability to walk, use my hands effectively, and care for myself. The most difficult loss to accept has been the increasing inability to speak clearly. I’ve been transitioning to using a communication device with an eye gaze keyboard, but it can make for slow and awkward conversations with those I love.
Fortunately, I have an amazing support system of family and friends who have allowed me to stay positive and live life to the fullest, even if that life looks a little different now. My husband, Kevin, has been a tireless advocate for me on this medical journey, from finding a functional medicine doctor who specializes in ALS to getting me enrolled in the Phase III NurOwn stem cell trial, which entailed 13 trips to Massachusetts over 11 months.
My mom, aunt and parents-in-law have helped keep a sense of normalcy for our kids by helping with my caregiving, cooking and chores, and shuttling them around to their activities. My friends have organized walks to fundraise for our local Les Turner ALS Foundation including one that brought 80+ people together to “Rally for Rankin.” And because of my supportive colleagues at UIC-SPH, I’ve been able to continue my rewarding work researching maternal and child health issues and mentoring students part-time from home.
But, most of all, my daughters (now aged 14, 11, and 9) have inspired me to live life to the fullest and stay hopeful. They make me smile every day and keep me grounded in the moment. We have fun traveling together as a family. I get to enjoy their musical and drama performances. And the girls enjoy hitching a ride on the back of my wheelchair while wearing roller skates. I’ve learned that I can still be a supportive and encouraging mom to them, even if I can’t physically care for them anymore. That keeps me going and hopeful that I’ll have many more years to spend with them!