In July 2018, Michele began having difficulty with swallowing and speech. Soon after, her arms and legs weren’t doing what she wanted them to do. Michele had taken a medical leave of absence for a rare tumor from May - July and returned to work. Doctors originally attributed the neurological problems to anesthesia from surgery or possibly even a small stroke during surgery. But, by October, her speech became difficult to understand, problems swallowing were happening more frequently and she was struggling to make it through the day. Having been tested for multiple sclerosis is 2016, she returned to the neurologist to see what was going on.
On October 31, the neurologist delivered devastating news: Michele had Progressive Bulbar Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). She was unable to continue working and took an unpaid leave in November. The diagnosis was confirmed by specialists in Phoenix, Boston and at UCal, Irvine. Progressive Bulbar ALS is an extremely aggressive form of ALS with a life expectancy of 1½ years beyond diagnosis depending on how quickly it attacks the body.
Sadly, Michele’s body is rapidly betraying her. At this time she is unable to communicate verbally, she is breathing at less than half normal capacity, she falls frequently, her vision is affected, and she is limited in what she can eat because of swallowing issues. She will need constant care very soon. Michele has made her wishes very clear, and will not extend her life by artificial means.