ALS Awareness

By Anthony Antoine |

Published 08/18 2014 10:38PM

Updated 08/19 2014 11:20AM

DANVILLE -- The Ice Bucket Challenge has taken over social media, but is it all for show or are people stepping up and helping? People are challenging others to get wet and raise money. It's to support those with ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's disease.

Millions are having fun with it, but for the people living with ALS, everyday is a challenge. One couple is thankful people are paying attention. This love story began in 1966.

"Despite a rocky first date, she went out a second time with me," says Gene Owen.

For Catherine and Gene Owen it'll continue through sickness and in health.

"I can't even describe the joy that she brings to me. She's my soul mate. She's everything that I've got."

Catherine was diagnosed with ALS two years ago.

"We did not know anything about it," says Owens.

The disease attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Patients slowly lose their ability to move some of their muscles.

Gene says, "We were just devastated with the news, but we knew that we would get through it with God’s help."

Catherine lost her ability to talk.

"When she lost her voice, she adjusted by using the computer texting," says Owens.

She started writing a blog; sharing the experience with others as her body began to change.

Owen's says, "She cannot swallow, eat or drink anything. Everyday is a new challenge for us."

Everyday someone is completing the Ice Bucket Challenge for people like Catherine.

Gene says, "As people talk about it and understand the disease that it affects all the voluntary muscles randomly and that it can hit anybody at anytime, and I think that's what it's bringing up."

It's not all talk; not all show. More than $15 million been raised for the ALS foundation so far this year. Compare that to about $2 million last year. The Owens hopes that money means finding a cure.

"Hopefully they will find a gene that we can start taking medication to counteract some of this disease," says Owens.

Even if it doesn't, Gene will never leave his wife's side.

"The average lifespan for ALS patients is 3 - 5 years. Cathy's goal is to double that. Even though she can't kiss and she can just squeeze my fingers and I know that the love that she shares."

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