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'Keep Going,' Says Montvale Teacher With ALS

Donna Myhre and her daughter Mikayla, who will be 3 on June 25.
Donna Myhre and her daughter Mikayla, who will be 3 on June 25. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Mikayla is her lifeline, Myhre says.
Mikayla is her lifeline, Myhre says. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

MONTVALE, N.J. — Donna Myhre pulls into the Fieldstone Middle School parking lot in Montvale and waits.

There was a time when when the 6th grade math teacher simply hopped out and bound towards her destination. She ran up the stairs at Madison Square Garden, taught fitness classes and competed in triathlons.

Now she must wait for help getting into a wheelchair.

“Stopping when something is hard makes it end sooner,” said Myhre, 41, who was diagnosed with ALS four years ago. “You have to keep going until it is truly impossible.”

In the scheme of the illness, Myhre's is a slower-progressing case. Some of the people she knows who were diagnosed with what is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease when she was have died.

Her legs went numb in the last year or so, but the painful cramping that Myhre feels in her upper body reminds her that she still has strength.

"What’s driving me is my desire to still be there and exist for many reasons,” she said. “But primarily for my daughter.”

Myhre found out she was pregnant with Mikayla in the month following her diagnosis.

There isn't much she said she'd have done differently -- aside for having Mikayla sooner. Now nearly 3, she has become her mother's lifeline.

"Some people say 'I wish I used my legs while they worked,'" Myhre said as Mikayla played in her lap on their back deck. "I did, I really did."

Her husband, Mike, recalled how Myhre was always the one to take the stairs, no matter how steep nor how many.

"Or they'll say, 'I wish I could've done nice things for people before they had to do nice things for me,'" she added. "And I really did."

Mike pointed out that Myhre chose to spend her time helping out at the Special Olympics.

"It took this for me to finally understand why she did it," Mike said.

Life has become a marathon for Myhre's arms and each day brings a new challenge. Sometimes she can hold herself up in the shower and others she can barely finish folding laundry.

It's usually a few moments before midnight and Mikayla is still awake when Myhre, grateful for the extra hours she gets to spend with her daughter, is reminded why she must keep going.

"There are songs about living like you're dying, and it's true," she said. "I don't take any second for granted — I'm not willing to give up yet."

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