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Grayslake woman beating odds in fight against ALS
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Grayslake resident Aimee Chamernik, with husband Jim, is in her fifth year of fighting ALS. She hopes to participate in a two-mile fundraising walk for ALS research Saturday.

 

Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2007

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Published: 9/8/2009 12:07 AM

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Grayslake resident Aimee Chamernik celebrated her 40th birthday over the weekend, which was a milestone she didn't think was likely.

Chamernik is fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. By coincidence, Chamernik's birthday Saturday was about the time she was diagnosed with ALS five years ago.

Given that life expectancy typically is three to five years after an ALS diagnosis, an event set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Montrose Harbor in Chicago holds great meaning to Chamernik.

Chamernik will lead her Ask About Aimee team in the two-mile Les Turner ALS Foundation Walk4Life. Unable to walk on her own anymore, the former runner will hold on to something to go as far as she can in the event.

"In all honesty, I had expected that by this point, my family and friends would be walking without me - that they would be walking in my memory," Chamernik said. "The fact I'm even here for this walk is amazing. The fact that five years after my diagnosis, I plan to walk at least part of the two-mile course, is truly stunning."

ALS attacks nerve cells and weakens muscles until they don't function and become paralyzed. There is no cure.

Chamernik, a mother of three young children, and her husband, Jim, have continued their willingness to be public about her condition in an effort to create more awareness about ALS.

Jim Chamernik said one of Aimee's greatest concerns after her ALS diagnosis in September 2004 related to her son Zachary, then 1.

"Her biggest fear ever was that her youngest (child) wouldn't even remember her," Jim Chamernik said.

Aimee Chamernik said it's frustrating not much more is known about ALS since New York Yankees first-baseman Lou Gehrig died of the disease that bears his name in 1941, two years after his diagnosis. She said because those with ALS die so quickly, the pool never grows enough to demand attention and government funding given to other diseases.

"We have said since early on that our two goals as a family are to make as many great memories as possible and to do as much as we can to advance the fight against ALS," Aimee Chamernik said.

"Having reached this elusive milestone, I feel more compelled than ever to use my 'extra' time to call attention to this cruel disease. I feel like if I'm fortunate enough to still be here, I need to use some of my time and energy to speak out for those who can't, those who never got a chance to."

• For more about her walking team, check askaboutaimee.com. About 100 walkers joined her last year.