Live, Laugh, Love & Pray: Rosalinda Steely's Story

Rosalinda Steely has a rambunctious spirit and an infectious smile.  From being a flight attendant to an athlete, to riding hot air balloons, she’s always lived her life with gravity-defying purpose.  Now living with ALS, Rosalinda continues to bring light and laughter to those around her.

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Rosalinda was born and raised in Newgulf, Texas.  She is the sixth of eight children in her family.  Rosalinda attended Wharton County Junior College before transferring to Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, which was an all-women university at that time.

After graduating from college, she was employed by Daniel Industries as their bilingual secretary for the Vice President.  Rosalinda left to become a stewardess for American Airlines, based out of Dallas. The job enforced high standards for hair and makeup, and required for stewardesses to remain single.  Despite the rigorous policies, she enjoyed every moment, falling in love with cities along the way like New York City!

Eventually, Rosalinda settled down and left American Airlines.  She later dedicated a decade of her life to serving others as a substance abuse counselor and as a volunteer for 10 years with the Houston Crisis Hotline.  All the while, she raised three wonderful children, 2 daughters and her son, Travis who has been indispensable in assisting his mother whenever possible.

Rosalinda's Rambunctious Spirit

Throughout Rosalinda’s life, she has always been very active in sports, her favorites being basketball, volleyball, and bicycling. She’d continue cycling for many years after school. In the year 2000, Rosalinda experienced a serious ankle break during a biking accident that required five surgeries, and through today, she still has 2 plates and 8 pins in her left ankle. That accident however, didn’t stop her from pursuing other activities.

At 62 years old, Rosalinda started playing tennis. She continued to play, and sometimes even on the men’s teams, until five years ago when she experienced a rotator cuff injury which required another surgery. Around that same time, she met Bob at a Christmas party. The two have since spent the last few years building a beautiful life together. In February 2020, Bob proposed to Rosalinda, and they continue to make fun memories whenever they can.

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New Changes

Back in October 2019, Rosalinda noticed a slight tickle in her throat. Just a few days prior, she’d recently had her flu vaccine, so her doctor believed it to be just side effects from having received the vaccine and prescribed antibiotics to alleviate her sore throat. The medicines didn’t help. She went back to her doctor who prescribed a higher dose of antibiotics. Those didn’t help either, and Rosalinda continued to experience discomfort in her throat.

Just a few short weeks later in November during a Thanksgiving trip to San Diego, Rosalinda’s speech was noticeably slurring. Throughout 2020, her ability to visit with specialists was limited due to the COVID-19 quarantine, however she was still able to undergo testing with neurologists, ENT’s, and was even tested for any signs of stroke, all to no avail.  Then, in April 2021, she received her diagnosis. Dr. Stanley Appel officially diagnosed Rosalinda with Bulbar onset ALS.

Her rambunctious spirit and smile continue to bring joy and laughter to everyone around her. Now that she is living with ALS, that hasn’t changed.  Today she still enjoys hosting elaborate dinners at home, setting her table with placemats, cloth dinner napkins and wine. Although swallowing has become extremely difficult, she and her fiancé Bob frequently go out for dinner at restaurants, and it is to everyone’s surprise she prefers her beer to be served in a wine glass!

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The Biggest Loss

Losing her voice to ALS has been the biggest struggle of Rosalinda’s life. She is now confined to only using other methods of communication without her spoken words, but conversations often move too fast, and she cannot write quickly enough to be able to participate. People outside of her family don’t often show patience or grace when interacting with Rosalinda, which frequently leaves her feeling invisible.  Both Rosalinda and Sandy sat in tears as Sandy shared how this disease is affecting her mother:

I see Mom wanting to participate in conversations and she wants to be engaged.  It’s so frustrating because when we go out in public and Mom holds up a sign like ‘I cannot speak’, then they’ll begin to talk about her as if she isn’t there and address only me.”  -Sandy Steely

Because of these challenges, her family has seen her spirit fade as she withdraws from conversations. They are desperate to hold onto their mother. “I want her to be able to advocate for herself now, knowing that she can still do many things,” Sandy shared.

Pushing Forward Through ALS

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Rosalinda still has full use of her arms and legs.  She walks, drives, cooks, shops and even makes trips to the salon herself.  Though she’s lost her physical voice, Rosalinda is not letting ALS stop her from enjoying her life.  She’s found new purpose in completing acts of kindness for her family and friends.

In February 2021, during the Texas freeze, Bob’s home was completely water damaged by pipes which burst due to the freezing temperatures. As a result, Bob moved in to Rosalinda’s home, and they worked together to repair and remodel Bob’s home as they began to build their lives together. In true go-getter fashion, Rosalinda jumped into action! Armed with a paper towel in her mouth to absorb saliva, and a paint roller in her hand, she alone painted every wall inside Bob’s house!

Rosalinda is also taking advantage of opportunities to travel and try new things. Every year she has travelled to San Diego to visit with her oldest daughter, Sharon and her family. This year, Rosalinda wanted to check another item off of her bucket list. So, Sharon arranged for Rosalinda and Bob to spend a lovely California evening riding in a hot air balloon over the California coast. Her next goal is to travel to Spain in 2022.

We're All in This Together

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Rosalinda has found comfort in meeting other people living with Bulbar ALS through social media and support groups.  “It’s amazing knowing I’m not alone and certainly learn what others are experiencing,” Rosalinda shared on her whiteboard.

On October 30, many members of her extended family all came to Houston to join her on the Walk to Defeat ALS to show their support for Rosalinda and others who are fighting ALS in Texas.  She had team members from all across the country wearing lavender T-shirts in support of ROZZIE’S ROCKETS.  Rosalinda feels hope knowing these efforts are supporting research for better treatments for ALS and most importantly, a cure!

Though her life looks very different today than it did two years ago, Rosalinda’s infectious smile and rambunctious spirit continue to bless those around her.  She encourages others to not lose sight of their community as they fight this terrible disease:

Live one day at a time.
Listen to your doctors.
Live, laugh, love and pray.
We’re all in this together.

ALS is a devastating disease.  The emotional strain ALS causes is heartbreaking.  The physical and financial impact is great, but there is HOPE!

ALS Texas strives to support Texans living with ALS through equipment loans, support groups and critical research for a cure.  Will you support these crucial resources?  Make a gift today.

Together we can support Texans with ALS and their families.  Together, we can find a cure!