Despite ALS, Myrtle Beach woman vows to live life to the fullest

Despite ALS, Myrtle Beach woman vows to live life to the fullest

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Many may have first heard about it through social media, during the Ice Bucket Challenge.

But ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, is much more than a Facebook stunt. According to research, one in every 500,000 people in the U.S., are diagnosed with ALS.

One of those is Faye Britch, a Myrtle Beach resident who chooses to live life to the fullest, no matter what the doctors say.

Britch and her family have gone through the toughest year of their lives following her diagnosis with ALS.

It has taken away her ability to talk, but it hasn't taken away her capability to live.

The way her fingers flow freely across the piano shows just how much Britch loves music. In fact, for 25 years, she was a soprano singer in her church's choir before her voice began to change.

By communicating through writing, Britch recalled when she first knew something wasn't right.

"Your speech, your speech got worse. Your throat? Was it pain? No, you woke up and couldn't talk," Britch said. "It just gradually got worse."

At first, the family thought it was allergies.

"Watching my mom lose her voice over the course of time was really hard and it's been really frustrating," said daughter Jenn DeLuca.

It became even more frustrating when the family went back and forth to local doctors looking for answers.

"We also went to an ear, nose and throat specialist, a throat doctor that he tested Faye some, and he said it appeared that it was something that he could not help her with," said husband Al Britch.

Britch eventually wound up in Charleston at MUSC in July 2014, where she was diagnosed with Primary Lateral Sclorsis (PLS), a neurological disease.

More tests would lead her to Duke University Hospital, where in March 2015 doctors there would officially diagnose her with ALS.

The disease affects the facial muscles, speech and the ability to swallow. That leaves her with the inability to talk, swallow or chew.

"She has to watch now her liquids and supplements. She actually cannot hardly eat anything, so she had to eat through a feeding tube," said Al Britch.

Technology has given back to Faye what she thought she lost. She uses a device called a boogie board to write notes. Her cell phone also has a speech app, and her tablet allows her to type messages, which are read aloud.

Still, perhaps the biggest asset in helping her fight this disease has been her family.

And they are thankful for her.

"I hate that my mom has this disease and we don't have a cure for, but I am so thankful that I have her," said DeLuca.

For her husband of nearly 45 years, it is overwhelming.

"I'd say we're trying to deal with it. I think Faye is doing the hard work.  To not be able to communicate is really tough. It's really tough," said Al Britch.

So, what has gotten them through it? Britch writes optimism, prayers, family and friends.

"She wakes up every day with a smile on her face with the will to fight and really wanting to enjoy the most out of life," said DeLuca. "I am thankful that I have such an awesome mom."

WMBF News will be supporting the Britch family and hundreds of other South Carolinians suffering from ALS by participating in the Grand Strand-Pee Dee Walk to Defeat ALS.

It takes place this Saturday, March 26, at Grand Park in The Market Common beginning at 9 a.m.

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