by Mike Knaak
After successful surgery for a non-cancerous brain tumor, Chris Stoeckel thought everything was fine. For three months.
Then new symptoms appeared. His legs collapsed and his knees gave way. When he worked at his computer, he had a hard time focusing and he’d be sweating.
“I couldn’t figure out why,” Stoeckel said. “Doing the dishes, I would have to sit down. I was drenched in sweat.”
Doctors conducted test after test before the diagnosis of ALS on Oct. 11.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching and gradually worsening weakness as muscles shrink. This results in difficulty speaking, swallowing and eventually breathing.
ALS typically starts at the top of the body and moves down. Stoeckel’s case started from the bottom up.
“I can feel it in my diaphragm. It’s starting to slowly crawl up my system,” he said.
Friends and family have organized a fundraiser to help pay for modifications to the family’s St. Joseph house and equip a handicapped-accessible vehicle. The event is from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Sauk Rapids VFW, 901 N. Benton Drive.
Stoeckel, 45, has been unable to work as a graphic designer since May 2017. Chris and his wife, Vicki have three daughters. His oldest, Tessa, 20, just got engaged. Kayla, 17, is a senior at Apollo High School and Leela, 11, attends Kennedy Community School.
Right now, Stoeckel gets around with a walker and a cane. He anticipates getting around in a wheelchair.
Their home needs wider doors to accommodate a wheelchair and hardwood floors to replace carpeting so it’s easier to get around. They want to take down a wall to make a bigger bedroom and redo a bathroom.
After the diagnosis, Stoeckel said “my wife, kids, friends and family jumped right at it.” They’ve created a Facebook Fundraiser and a GoFundMe page. Search for Chris’ name to find them.
“I’m more of a giver so this is hard for me,” he said. “My wife goes into high gear and boom.”
Stoeckel, who graduated from Apollo, grew up on St. Cloud’s East Side with three brothers and a sister. Now in that same neighborhood, Stoeckel’s pastor at Salem Lutheran Church suggested printing some T-shirts with the slogan “Embracing the Suck.” The pastor used that same slogan to boost morale for his platoon when he served in Iraq.
The fundraiser poster features the family wearing shirts with the slogan.
They are “Embracing the Suck,” fighting the disease and asking for the community’s support.