This year, we are honoring Sarah Durand as our ALS hero during the Under Ballou Skies Golf Classic & Party. In the last year, Sarah has not only had to navigate life during a pandemic, but also an ALS diagnosis.
Sarah currently resides in Austin, where she has lived for the last 18 years. She built a career in massage therapy, working for two different resorts. In September of 2019, Sarah started to notice that one of her fingers would not fully extend. She thought it might be the onset of arthritis, a common experience among massage therapists.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, resorts closed, giving Sarah several months off, yet she saw no improvement with her finger. She went to a Rheumatologist and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in early 2020 and started doing injection treatments. However, after three months of injections, her condition continued to worsen.
“I noticed in my yoga class that I couldn’t balance on my right leg anymore,” Sarah shared. After visiting with a neurologist, Sarah was diagnosed with ALS in September 2020. She even went to two other doctors for a second opinion—both coming to the same conclusion: ALS.
Getting Connected with the ALS Community
Sarah connected with the ALS Association of Texas shortly after her diagnosis. She already visited a multidisciplinary ALS clinic once and plans to go twice a year for routine care. And while she may still be in the early stages of the disease, Sarah knows that ALS Texas is just a phone call away for everything from no-cost equipment loans to support groups!
ALS can affect people of any age and gender, and the average age of diagnosis is 55, but at only 39 years old, Sarah hopes to connect with younger people with ALS, especially other women. “I recently have found a couple of girls that I’ve started talking with and that’s been a true blessing, having somebody that understands what I’m going through.”
A New Normal
In the meantime, Sarah is finding a new normal, from adjusting her home to make it accessible to applying for disability. “Once I get adjusted to one thing, I lose control of something else.”
Sarah has even had to changed how she spends her free time. “A lot of my hobbies, I can’t do them anymore,” she shared. “I loved to go hiking and loved to go running. I have two paddle boards in my backyard that I stare at all the time and can’t use them, you know?”
Sarah finds joy in time spent with her boyfriend, Danny, her friends, or her two dogs and cat. She cheerfully shared how Danny is incredibly supportive of her ALS journey, “He’s really been with me day in and day out.” From cooking together, to enjoying a relaxing day at the pool, Sarah and Danny are making the most of every moment they have together.
Fighting to Raise Awareness
Sarah is passionate about raising awareness for ALS. “I had never even heard of ALS before I got diagnosed,” she shared. And finding a cure for ALS starts with people seeing the need for a cure for ALS.
Before being diagnosed with ALS, Sarah ran races and supported fundraising events for breast cancer research. Her mom had fought the disease, which made it a cause dear to her heart. However, she noted that there is not the same kind of widespread awareness surrounding ALS. “I never see anything for ALS like pins, hats, clothing”.
Sarah hopes soon that more doors will open to host fundraising events to awareness efforts and critical research for a cure and reliable treatments. However, there is an exciting way that you can support Texans with ALS like Sarah from the comfort of your own home!
Supporting Texans with ALS at Home
This year for Under Ballou Skies, you can support Texans with ALS from the comfort of your own home with our Party with a Purpose basket. Join us on May 13 for a virtual party, where we’ll honor Sarah and support Texans with ALS with an auction. Each basket includes boutique picnic provisions and items to make a Tito’s signature cocktail for you and your guests!