For one Winchester resident, cancer was the first battle

When Linda McDaniel first learned that she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the Winchester resident had already been through a lot. In the spring of 2015, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

While she was battling the cancer with radiation treatments, her speech was already starting to slow. But her doctor didn’t know where the problems were coming from.

“One of the doctors told her that her speech problems could have been coming from her body fighting against the cancer and it may have affected her voice box,” her husband, Ted McDaniel, said. “So we just thought that was the problem.”

But after radiation successfully pushed the cancer into remission, her speech continued to get worse. Now, she can’t speak on her own.

ALS has no known cures and while there are treatments available, none of them completely stop the body’s muscles from deteriorating. The combination of drugs, diet and therapies can only control the symptoms of a person with ALS, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Ted McDaniel said that the limited treatment options meant his wife would continue doing things “as long as she’s physically able.” But it has also meant that doctors are doing what they can to keep her muscles strong.

Since her diagnosis, Ted said that Linda has enrolled in a clinical research program at Johns Hopkins University led by Lora Clawson, the director of clinical services there.

She has also improved her health considerably since starting to use a feeding tube. Ted said that prior to having a feeding tube installed, Linda had lost about 15 pounds.

“She could not eat enough food to maintain her weight,” he said. “And this food, Liquid Hope, is really good in helping her maintain her strength and her daily nutrition.”

Initially, when Linda first started using a feeding tube, she had some difficulties with her feeding tube getting caught in her clothing. But since then, she has shifted to using a different feeding tube and has had fewer problems with her feeding tube getting caught in her clothing, Ted said.

“The liquid food that she takes in, it goes in much better than with the old one,” Ted said. “And it makes the process of putting the food inside her so much better now.”

Ted said that he also thinks that the research program has been helpful–and that he hopes her involvement in studies will help the treatment of people with ALS in the future.

“There’s nothing that’s going to make her better,” he said. “But of course they told us that from the very beginning.”

Still, Ted said that he hopes the research the Johns Hopkins team is performing will help people who are diagnosed with ALS in the future.