Jim Tobin was training for his third half marathon when he began noticing weakness in his hips and right leg – not a good sign for a runner. Two and a half years later, in January, 2016, after many tests, he received the diagnosis that would forever change his life: ALS.
His wife, Diane, says, “Those three letters sent shock waves through us when we heard them. Suddenly life was different.”
They wasted no time, and decided to travel to Paris, a dream that had long been on their bucket list. Though they had to navigate the streets of Paris with Jim in a wheelchair, the memories they made are something they both cherish.
That trip pretty much sums up how Jim has lived his life as a person with ALS. He is a testament to the fact that just because you have a diagnosis of ALS, it doesn’t mean you stop living and challenging yourself. He has chosen to redefine himself, to live a life that has purpose and meaning. He hasn’t let the disease take his joy.
The Importance of Community
Focusing on community, rather than isolating himself, has been one of the most important ways he’s continued to live his life to the fullest.
“ALS is an isolating disease,” says Diane. “There’s no better way to break down the wall of isolation than to build connections and community,” she adds.
Jim and Diane have been fortunate to have the support of many friends. Diane says, “Jim made lifelong friends playing tennis and golf and running half marathons. To this day, they are still here for him, dropping by to visit and hosting their men’s breakfast group at our home.”
Hope for the Future
Jim is quick to say, “ALS is not incurable, but it’s a complicated disease. Curing it takes a lot of money.”
It’s that hope for the future that spurs his and Diane’s passion for raising awareness and resources to support others with ALS and to help find a cure.
While they know they’re fortunate to be able to afford the care and devices Jim needs, they realize others are not. Jim recently was able to get an Eye Gaze machine, making it easier for him to reconnect with friends and family through email, texts and calls. He and Diane want others living with ALS to have access to the same kind of assistive technology.
The couple believes the ALS Association of Texas helps people with ALS “live their lives in the best way they can.” That’s why for the past three years they’ve participated in the Walk to Defeat ALS in Houston. They and their team raise money for the ALS Association to fund research and support for those living with ALS. One particular program that is dear to their hearts is the ALS Texas equipment loan bank, which allows people with ALS free access to durable medical equipment and assistive technology. Equipment can be very expensive. ALS Texas provides this equipment, easing the financial burden and helping to provide a better quality of life for people with ALS.
Since Jim’s diagnosis Diane has been inspired by a piece called What ALS Cannot Do. It’s become the couple’s mantra and has encouraged countless individuals living with ALS and their families.
“While you have ALS, you are not ALS. It is merely a part of you.” – Diane Tobin
What ALS Cannot Do
ALS cannot cripple love.
ALS cannot erode faith.
ALS cannot destroy peace.
ALS cannot silent courage.
ALS cannot suppress memories.
ALS cannot weaken family.
ALS cannot erode the spirit.
ALS cannot conquer the soul.