Since receiving his ALS diagnosis in February 2018, Mark Ianniello’s life has changed in profound ways. He is a 49-year-old father to three teenagers and can no longer work to help support his family. ALS has affected his speech and his mobility.

Mark admits to having ups and downs. Despite the challenges, he says ALS has helped him develop a deep appreciation for community and a new perspective on how to live well. He doesn’t describe himself as particularly religious, but he has always been spiritual.  Living with ALS, he says, “I’ve learned that whether you’re healthy or ill, we’re all the same. We all need a sense of security and to feel like we are part of something more than ourselves.”

Mark with his family

Giving back is one of the main reasons Mark is attending the Walk to End ALS for the second time. “When you give back,” he explains, “you are rewarding yourself at the same time.”

At the 2018 Walk to End ALS in Simcoe County, Mark was still mobile enough to complete the 5km circuit, but he doesn’t believe that will be possible now. He anticipates walking a short distance, perhaps the first and last blocks of the route with the aid of his walker.

Mark with his family

“In some ways, it’ll be easier this year,” says Mark. “I was only three months into my journey with ALS at the Walk last spring. It was a lot to take in and a bit overwhelming even though there was a great spirit on the day of the Walk. This year, I won’t be thinking so much about myself. I’ll be thinking more about how I can give back because so many people have rallied around me.”

Mark and his wife, Nancy, are also grateful for the support provided by ALS Canada. They have received home visits from their ALS Canada Regional Manager, Sarah McGuire, attended local ALS Canada support groups, and accepted loaned equipment such as a walker and safety rails that make it easier for Mark to stay independent and mobile.

Team Ianniello during last year’s Simcoe Region Walk

“Understanding ALS is a pretty steep learning curve,” says Mark. “It helped to meet in person with Sarah and hear from caregivers attending support groups about what to expect, especially in the beginning when we knew so little about ALS.”

Now that Mark feels more “settled” with the reality of living with ALS, he is learning to appreciate time more than ever before. By practicing mindfulness and making meditation part of his daily spiritual routine, he is finding a way to turn a devastating situation into an opportunity for personal growth. He is deeply grateful for the gift of community and eager to get that message out. “It’s more than you can possibly know,” he says.

The Walk to End ALS takes place in over 90 communities across Canada until September 2019. Register or donate to a Walk to End ALS near you at  www.walktoendals.ca .

Your fundraising efforts and generous donations support the best ALS research in the country and enable ALS Canada to provide community-based support to people and families living with the disease in Ontario. Donations for all Walk to End ALS events are being accepted until December 31, 2019.

Posted in: Events, Walk To End ALS