News & Stories

Living Well with ALS: Deirdre Leiner

Deirdre Leiner wasn’t shocked when she received her ALS diagnosis in September 2023. Her father, grandfather, and even great-grandfather all had the disease. Familial ALS is rare and comprises 5-10% of all ALS diagnoses. 

Deirdre Leiner's chickens

Deirdre shares a country house on a beautiful patch of land in Eugene with her husband. They married shortly after her ALS diagnosis in a Halloween-themed wedding. Living with them are her husband’s son and the youngest of her four children, along with two dogs (Poppy and Howard), five cats (Jerry, Shelby, Weston, Amidala, and Tom) and 11 chickens.

This passion for animals began young: Deirdre volunteered often at rescue centers and eventually became a vet technician. She’s been a licensed technician now for almost 30 years. She still has her five cats, but had to rehome several due to her ALS symptoms. Thankfully, her friends at the Cat Rescue and Adoption Network ensure they’re well cared for.

Beyond animals, Deirdre loves gardening and has experimented recently with a new technique called “hay bale gardening.” Medicine and ALS science are also of interest to her; she’s particularly fascinated by the myelin sheath and its role in ALS (disruptions of the myelin sheath contribute to the muscle dysfunction seen in ALS). 

Amidst the difficulties that ALS brings, Deirdre maintains a sense of composure and equilibrium. This is bolstered by her supportive community, including ALS Northwest. Her oldest son is a civil engineer and designed a ramp for her front entrance. Plus, years before her own ALS diagnosis, she volunteered regularly at the Walk ALS Willamette Valley because of her family history. Deirdre now attends ALS Support Groups and sees our Care Services Coordinators at her quarterly ALS Clinic appointments, preparing as proactively as possible so she can continue enjoying her animals, home and time with her husband. 

To others with the disease, Deirdre advises, “Live your best life.”

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