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'Live With Grace & Dignity': Woman Fighting ALS Vows To Help Others

By Karen Leigh

DENVER (CBS4) - All pictures tell a story, but family photos from Jan North explain how the past impacts her present. Jan was recently diagnosed with familial ALS.

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CBS4's Karen Morfitt interviews Jan North. (credit: CBS)

"A few years ago, my running, I'm (was) an avid runner. I started not being able to do marathons; not running as long as fast, tripping on trails," Jan said. "I did chalk that up to getting older. It was really about a year ago when I noticed that I had difficulty getting out of the chair, steps were harder, my right foot was slapping a little."

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Jan North (credit: CBS)

She admits part of her expected it. She knew her chances of getting ALS were 50/50.

The disease dates back to her grandfather. In a photo showing five of his siblings, three out of the five died from the disease. The disease passed down to a handful of their children; Jan's mom being one of them.

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(credit: CBS)

"I watched her progress. I watched her start using a cane, using a chairlift, then a wheelchair. She had a 2nd grader, 4th grader and a 9th grader in the house. I don't know how she did it."

But she did do it... for 14 years. Jan says her mom set a high bar for living life, and now, Jan wants to set that same example for her two daughters.

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(credit: CBS)

"My main desire is to live with the grace and dignity that my mom did. I think back and I am amazed at how she held herself up high and tried to maintain a normal life."

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(credit: CBS)

Being positive could be this family's strongest legacy. Jan's father founded the national ALS organization after her mom's diagnosis. And Jan, started the local ALS chapter in Colorado when she was in her 20s. They know the importance of fighting for another day.

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"This organization is unbelievable... at every turn my doctor says that's your biggest support system and they really are."

LINK: Walk To Defeat ALS

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