For Libby Castillo, her older sister, Kathy – or Kat, was always the one taking charge. Even though Kat was 11 years older, she and Libby were close throughout their lives. Kat had four children, one girl and three boys, who are all adults now. Even though Kat passed in April of 2021, her family continues to Walk to Defeat ALS in her memory.
The Diagnosis Process
The first sign of ALS that Kat experienced was numbness in her left hand. She soon began to lose functionality in the hand, so she and her husband began meeting with doctors to determine what was going on. After multiple visits, eventually they landed on a diagnosis of ALS. Kat gathered her family together to share the news of her diagnosis on National Siblings Day. Initially, some family members had no idea what ALS was. One of Kat’s sons immediately began doing research.
“He and I were the ones that sat down together and got on our phones immediately and started looking it up… we saw the lifespan of people who have ALS and knew this was not a good thing,” Libby said.
After Kathy had broken the news to her family, they got connected with the ALS Association Texas Chapter and began going to support groups and clinics together.
“There’s this resource out there of these support groups… they are an excellent resource for people who are going through this, especially for family members. We need that connection with other people to work through our emotions together,” Libby said about becoming involved in the ALS community, adding that the support groups were especially helpful for her mother who had to watch her daughter go through this disease. Though Libby initially went to the groups to support her mother, she soon found herself benefitting from the groups as well, “It was interesting to meet other people and let people know that we understood what they were going through as well.”
Kat had always been a go-getter, and that didn’t stop even when she was diagnosed with ALS.
“Kat would go after what she wanted; if someone didn’t give it to her, she’d find a way to get it herself. When she was diagnosed, she heard about the Walk, so when she was still able to walk, she gathered everybody up – her friends and our family—and we did our first walk at Woodlawn Lake in San Antonio.”
The team name, Team BobKat, is a combination of Kat’s name, and her husband’s name, Bob. They have been active in every walk since Kat was diagnosed and hope to continue carrying the torch in honor of Kat and to help others who are dealing with their own ALS diagnosis. Libby has taken on the role of team captain since her sister’s passing and hopes to make the walk as successful as possible in Kat’s memory.
“We are a direct example of how these funds help people. We were able to use the resources that the ALS Association provided,” Libby said, “We walk because we as a collective want to raise money for this association because we know the good that can come out of the funds that are raised.”
Helping Others Along the Way
Libby knows how hard it can be to deal with the news when a loved one is diagnosed with ALS. She urges others to be empathetic and gracious with both themselves and their loved ones and encourages people to reach out and ask for help.
“For the people with ALS and the caregivers – take the help… there’s help not only from friends and family that want to give it, but also from the Association as well.”
Even when Kat lost her ability to speak, Libby was always amazed with her sister’s tenacity. Kat continued to organize her family’s walk and even planned an entire wedding vow renewal ceremony for her and her husband using her eye-gaze machine.
“Despite everything that happened to her, I’m just amazed how strong she was mentally and emotionally. She has this big family… she had a very strong mind and was open to accepting the help and using the resources that were given to her to live her best life despite the diagnosis.”