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Monday
Nov132017

26-year Army veteran and former West Point football player documents ALS journey

(NEW YORK) -- Chuck Schretzman is a 26-year Army veteran and former West Point football player. His wife Stacy too starred as a college athlete at Army and then at Bentley.

Since retiring from the army, life has taken an unexpected turn for the Schretzman's, presenting them with a serious and unexpected challenge.

Set to take a job in the civilian sector, Chuck was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrphic lateral sclerosis), also known as "Lou Gerhig's Disease," in 2015 shortly after his retirement. The two are now documenting Chuck's ALS journey in the new documentary series "Behind ALS," sponsored by Cytokinetics.

The couple recently spoke to ABC News about how the disease has affected their lives and what they are doing to spread awareness about it.

Chuck noticed he was struggling with balance just after he received his job offer in his post-army career. After medical professionals initially concluded Chuck did not have ALS, they re-examined him and diagnosed him with the disease.

Stacy told ABC News the diagnosis was "very scary," especially as they witnessed how the disease took hold of Chuck's life. He lost strength and his speech was slurred and altered.

Physical therapy became an important part of Chuck's life. Stacy says it is very important for him to improve strength so that he can continue standing. As a former athlete, Chuck cherishes physical activity and does not want to be helped with much, even if it is just taking a cup out of the cupboard.

His physical therapist is a "battle buddy," Stacy says, and he pushes Chuck even on the days when he is feeling down or sad.

Chuck and his wife both admitted that it is quite easy to fall into a state of sadness while battling ALS, which is when they say they look back on the lessons they learned as cadet-athletes.

Chuck approaches his battle the same way he did when he faced opponents on the football field: "one game at a time."

As he reflects on how he processes the disease, Chuck tells ABC News:

"I get up today, I walk today... tomorrow is not a guarantee. Live in the moment, live every day like one game at a time... one play at a time... I can't look at the big picture... and you learn that from sports."

The couple takes a game-by-game, or a day-by-day approach, because of the unpredictable affects ALS can have on his body. One day, Chuck could be feeling fairly strong, but that can change within a 24-hour span.

Chuck and Stacy call it Chuck's "mental strength" that allows him to carry on each day and allows him to continue succeeding in physical therapy and doing the things he wants to do in his everyday life. It is that mental strength they took from their days as athletes and they have applied it to their latest challenge.

For more on Chuck and Stacy Schretzman's story, their documentary series “Behind ALS” can be found here.

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