Cindy Wyman doesn’t want people to suffer the same fate her son Gary did.
Gary Wyman, a 1998 Clear Creek High School graduate, died in 2018 at age 38 of ALS, so she’s organizing an ALS walk on Saturday at Evergreen Lake. The group will walk the 1.4-mile trail around the lake to raise money to aid in finding a cure for the debilitating and fatal disease.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease in which communication between the brain and muscles breaks down and disappears, so patients lose the use of their limbs, speech, the ability to swallow and more, though the mind is still lucid. There is no cure.
“The new drugs extend your life, but if you are in a body that is simply a shell, you don’t want your life extended,” she said. “When you hear you have ALS, there is no hope. I know that’s very negative to say, but it’s a fact.”
The ice-bucket challenge in 2014 raised a lot of awareness and money for ALS research, but the disease has taken a backseat to other causes, she said. This year, because of COVID-19, the typical large Walk to Defeat ALS in Denver and elsewhere have been canceled, and instead, smaller ALS walks are being hosted around the country.
Gary, who had a big personality, was an avid snowboarder and worked in the film industry in California before returning to Colorado. He was diagnosed with ALS in December 2016, months after he got married. After the diagnosis, Wyman said, his friends took care of him, helping him skydive and take a trip along the west coast of the United States up to Canada. He also made a trip to Africa before his death.
Wyman said one of her toughest days was the day Gary lost his ability to speak. He was able to communicate by using his eyes to operate a computer.
“I don’t want anyone to be touched by ALS,” Wyman said. “I hope they can open up their hearts for those who can’t walk. I hope they will walk for those who can’t take care of themselves. I hope they will walk for those who are dying.”
Gary lived his life to its fullest before and after the diagnosis.
“What he taught us and what he told us,” Wyman said, “is don’t live for tomorrow. Live for today because your todays are short. If you decide to waste that day, you wasted a day of living life. He brought out so many good things in people.”