The ALS Association

Cherishing Memories of My Brother

Katherine W. Orange, California

I could have never known this 15 years ago, but ALS has had a profound influence on my adulthood, even though I am not a sufferer of the disease. Although that's a somewhat contradictory statement, as any of us touched even peripherally by this devasting and horrible illness can be included as sufferers, just not to the extent of those that actually are afflicted. My father, Tom Wilkes, was a world-renowned graphic artist and photographer who made his living designing, photographing and illustrating famous rock and roll album covers and art. He was diagnosed in the spring of 1998 with a preliminary form of ALS, known as PLS. It robbed him of his vitality, his inspiration, and to a great extent, his ability to create art. He left us 4 years ago, somewhat unexpectedly, at the age of 69. Although his death was not a direct result of ALS, his last few declining years were very much influenced by the effects of the disease. After my father had been diagnosed, my mom and I found out in 2006 that my younger brother and only sibling, David Harrison, was also afflicted with ALS. He is my half-brother, not related to my father, and he continues his brave battle with the disease to this day. David is the longest living patient of the Oregon Chapter of the ALS Association, and he endures his illness with grace and humor, far more than I believe I could muster under similiar circumstances. Until you experience this disease up-close, you don't really have any concept of the devastation it wreaks on those who have it, those who love them, and those that are the caregivers. David has taken part in clinical trials that he knew were too late to benefit him but that we all hope will further the necessary research to end suffering for those diagnosed in the future. My eldest daughter was married last July and moved her wedding up so that my brother could be there to celebrate with us; it will be a lasting and cherished memory that he was there to share in our joy. Even now as we all watch him battle toward the inevitable end, we all have those memories to share with each other. I pray daily that a cure will be found to help those still suffering and for those who may be afflicted in the future.

 
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