Chris' Journey: A Boardman teacher's fight against ALS - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Chris' Journey: A Boardman teacher's fight against ALS

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A former Boardman High School history teacher has been on Capitol Hill this week to teach lawmakers about a cause that's dear to her heart.

Some instructors don't need to be in the classroom to do what they do best. For Chris Terlesky educating is a way of life, even though hers is challenged.

"I really enjoyed teaching high school," said Terlesky.

The 41-year-old was forced to retire February 28 so that she could focus on her greatest joys- she and her husband's three kids.

They're helping her stay positive when she could easily dwell on the negative. A series of falls, especially while on vacation at Disney World last summer, changed everything.

"I'd be walking in Epcot and then boom I'm on the ground. My husband is like what is going on with you. I said I have no idea. He said you need to go to a doctor. I'm like OK."

She knew it was bad by the look on the doctor's face.

"He goes hopefully you have a tumor on your spine. I'm like what? He said we're hoping you have a tumor on your spine."

The diagnosis in October of last year was even worse. She has a rapidly progressive disease that leads to paralysis and death called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's Disease. There is no cure and no treatment.

"It's not anything to fight against the disease. They were hoping I had cancer because if I had cancer, then there were treatments."

Chris has a hard time walking and moving her hands but she isn't backing down. She's attacking ALS like she attacked high school and college basketball at only 5' 1."

"I was the type of person if you said that you can't do something I'm going to do it until I can."

She's aiming for her only hope: to get into the few stem cell treatment trials in the U.S. Her last resort is to be treated overseas.

This week she took her crusade to Capitol Hill fighting for the FDA to fast track and expand the trials. She was part of the National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference.

One of her former students is an aide at Congressman Tim Ryan's office. She met with Ryan personally and advocated for $10 million to go towards research for a cure and treatment. She says that it is difficult to get funding for ALS research because, unlike cancer, it is a rare disease.

"If we push it maybe we'll be able to find a cure quicker if not one for me, people down the road."

Cheering her on has been the Mahoning Valley. Thousands have helped raise money for her battle.

"Our community is something special (...) this is why we lived here and this is why we chose to live here and we're seeing the positive effects of it."

A teacher demonstrating a lesson in courage.

Dr. Lucie Bruijn, ALS Association Chief Scientist, said that while the stem cell trials show promise, there is still a long way to go. She said that these are small studies and it is not yet clear whether people living with ALS will find significant benefit. 

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