In February 2003, a diagnosis of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) was a shock to this healthy and active wife, mother and businesswoman. Cathleen had first noticed difficulty in doing simple things like zipping up her toddler’s pants and buttoning her blouse.
The disease has progressed, paralyzing her from the neck down, and today she can barely speak.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. About 20 percent of people with ALS live five years or more, and up to 10 percent will survive more than 10 years. Cathleen is now in the 20-percent group.
Before ALS, Cathleen was a “Type A” personality and independent woman. That independent streak is still there and her mind remains sharp, so she wants to be involved with every detail. She wants her caregivers and everyone else to do things exactly as she would have done it herself — whether it’s setting the table a certain way or decorating the house.
Scott and Cathleen met in 1993 at Keystone Resort in Colorado, where they were skiing with friends. They courted long-distance over 18 months as Scott lived in Grand Haven and Cathleen in California.
Married on May 13, 1995, they settled in Spring Lake and joined the First Presbyterian Church of Grand Haven. Cathleen’s faith plays a big role in her life and she looks to her Creator for healing.
On the day of the birthday celebration, everyone in the Pranger home was busy attending to Cathleen to ensure she looked her best. She thought she was having a birthday dinner with family.
At the Spring Lake Country Club, more than 100 guests gathered in the decorated ballroom. In the dining area, Scott, Cathleen’s parents and a few of her siblings pretended like they weren’t happy with their table and asked to be moved. The hostess opened a set of double doors to the main ballroom. At the front stood
Cathleen recently expressed that she hopes she is of the 5 percent that recover from ALS. The people in her life have no doubt that her deep faith, will to survive, loving caregivers and support network have helped her overcome the odds thus far.
— By Kelle Lynn, special to the Tribune
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For more information about ALS, visit www.alsa.org