By Anne Marie Foytick

I am here to tell you about an incredible man and his current battle with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).

My father, Edward Sierawski, began to have symptoms just over 10 years ago. Balance was the first and most prominent symptom, which became cause for concern. Over the next 5 years, those symptoms progressed and still he had no diagnosis. Finally, in 2016, after many years of doctor visits, tests, therapy, medications, etc., doctors were able to diagnose my father with MSA. It was a complete shock. He was a healthy man with little to no medical history and so much more life to live. We were told all the things to be prepared for and the average life span. The first few months were difficult as we tried to comprehend what exactly MSA is and what was to come. We learned MSA is a painful and frustrating degenerative condition that not only affects the individual with the condition but their family and friends that surround them.

Since his diagnosis, my father has had to give up some of his favorite things to do.

Work: My father started his own business at the age of 40 and has inspired so many throughout his life. He loved being able to teach and help others grow. He has always shown what hard work and taking risks looks like.

Golf: My father has played golf since he was a young man, and it has been one of his favorite activities. Not being able to balance made golfing difficult. Golf was not just a hobby but was something that he loved doing with his brothers, friends, and kids. I have been fortunate to be able to play with my father on many occasions in the past. They are some of my favorite memories with him.

Speech: My father spoke for a living. My father was in sales for many years before he started his own business. He trained people on how to do their jobs better and to be successful. He always had a way with words whether it was work or if it was expressing his love for his family and friends. It was incredibly hard to see a strong, hardworking, social man lose some of the things that made him most happy.

With MSA, it is not easy to see the positives in life at times while enduring a dark and painful condition. But even the darkest of storms bring rainbows. Although my father lost the ability to work, he was able to pass on his legacy to my brother, John, who now owns and runs the business. He still provides valuable advice and guidance to my brother as he learns the ropes of owning a business.

Even though he cannot golf physically anymore, my brothers have been able to take my dad with them out on the golf course a few times to smell the grass, feel the breeze, and be able to join in on the banter and even give some unwanted criticism.

Losing his speech and ability to move freely have been the toughest changes that have come with MSA. But on a beautiful October day in 2020, my father was able to escort me down the aisle. He was able to have his one and only father-daughter dance with the help of his scooter and was able to give a beautiful father-of-the-bride speech with the help of a speech app.

My father has fought tooth and nail to stay in this world with his wife of 44 years, his three children and his son-in-law. He has done every medical treatment you can think of and then some. He has traveled around the country to receive any and all help he can to prolong his life and to be here with his family. Therapy, spiritual healing, medication, stem cell treatments, you name it.. He has done it! To this day, he is still able to eat on his own, has some speech left, needs assistance transferring from his scooter to his bed or chair, and is making sure he is here as long as he can be. And that is all we can ask for from him.

If I can give any advice to those with a family member or friend that has MSA, I’d tell them to stay positive, spend time with them, and keep them involved. Be there for that person. Make them laugh. Cry with them. Whatever time you can spend with them is precious. One personal example I can give is watching sports with my father. My dad has always loved Michigan State sports, so being able to just sit and watch a football or basketball game with him is something I cherish so much. We even played the Michigan State fight song at my wedding.

I have had 36 wonderful years being my father’s daughter and pray for as many more as the Lord will give us. He continues to be the best father in the world to my brothers and me. He raised my siblings and I to be strong, independent, and confident people. He has always provided for his family even to this day and has loved us all unconditionally. How lucky are we to call him Dad?