Like many people staring down a milestone birthday, Bill Martin of Lone Tree wanted to greet his 50th in the best shape of his life. He grew up playing sports in El Paso and had kept in decent shape ever since, but he decided to kick it up a notch with a new routine: running the Bluffs with his dog every morning before work, lifting weights on his lunch hour, and doing CrossFit in the evenings.
In his own words, Bill was working out like a beast. Friends and family were noticing—and it felt good. So he couldn't understand why he started losing weight, even with 4,000 calories a day. He started having a hard time gripping barbells and doing pull—ups, despite his overall strength and fitness. "I thought, 'maybe l’m just getting old, maybe I’m getting arthritis,"' Bill says.
Then, in summer 2016 after months of testing with a neurologist, Bill was diagnosed with ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—a progressive neurodegenerative disease. ALS attacks the nerves and muscles and eventually takes away the ability to walk, swallow and breathe. There currently is no cure.
"It was a big shock for both of us,” says Bill, referring to his wife of almost 22 years, Julianne. In the months that followed, Bill and Julianne went somewhat dark. They kept Bill’s diagnosis secret so they could privately grieve and come to terms with the possibility of Bill not being around to see his two teenage children grow up. They devoted themselves to learning about ALS and hunting down the most promising research for a cure. The Martins eventually told a handful of close friends and family—but not their kids. They still wanted time to put long-term finances in order, renovate their new house with a main-floor master suite, and be emotionally ready to help their family and friends grapple with their devastating news.
“When we finally went public, it was liberating," Bill says. "We had been hiding for a couple of years and I knew it was time to start rolling the ball on raising awareness.
"ALS is way below the cancers of the world. What l’m trying to do now is a couple of things—raise awareness and also raise money. I read somewhere that ALS is not an incurable disease, it’s an under funded disease because of the lack of awareness.”
They broke the news earlier this year and immediately gathered their tight—knit group of friends which conveniently includes an attorney, an accountant, a sales executive, among other professionals—to form and help run the foundation Bill Paul's Fight Against ALS.
The first fundraiser, which included workouts and silent auction, was held in August at Intensity Park Meadows, Bill's CrossFit gym. With just word-of-mouth advertising, the foundation raised $30,000 in one weekend.
Bill Paul's Fight Against ALS board member, Robyn Burkes, and a close friend of the Martins, says everyone was blown away by the support from friends and community for something that was put together fairly quickly. “Just think—when we do this again and have some strategic planning—what kind of impact we're going to have," she says.
Intensity Park Meadows owner Shean Kirin says since the day Bill stepped foot in the gym, he’s been a friend to all, quick with a smile and encouragement, so it’s no wonder he's fighting ALS with the same spirit. "ln spite of all that, he chooses to be the eternal optimist and have a great attitude, and still be everything that everyone's always known him as,” Shean says. "That's what's amazing, when you see someone who is facing a challenge where the odds are stacked against him, and he chooses instead to have a positive attitude and be an inspiration to everyone around him.“
Julianne says the foundation is a tangible thing she and those closest to them can do to help. “It's very hard as a spouse to watch the one you love being given a pile of bricks, especially when he takes such pride in taking care of himself," she says. "We want [people] to know that every dime goes to research and a cure. We want to find a cure, but it takes money."
My Story was written by Jennifer Starbuck and published with great appreciation by
Highlands Ranch Lifestyle Magazine on October 28, 2018.
Copyright © 2018 Bill Paul’s Fight Against ALS - All Rights Reserved.