GabeName: Gabrielle "Gabe" Ford

Age: I am 38 years wise

Where do you call home? I currently call Canandaigua, NY home but that can change. I'm originally from Michigan for most of my life so far. I lived in Florida for 4 years and Indiana for 5 months.

Education: I graduated from high school and went to a travel academy to become a travel agent. I am a certified travel agent but chose not to work in the public due to my condition and fears of the public eye. Now being more mature and wiser compared to back then, I'm not as concerned with the opinions of the public eye. Life with FA has been the best teacher!

Who do you live with? I live alone now but I lived with family before.

What's a typical day for you? I get up before or around 8:30, walk my dog (wheelchair style), eat breakfast, take care of things at home, sometimes I have meetings or appointments, in the later afternoon I usually go out via public bus to go out shopping and/or errands. I am pretty independent and try to remain as active as I can.

How long have you known you are living with FA? I was clinically diagnosed with FA when I was 12 ('92) but now the neurologist I see (different than original) believes I was misdiagnosed. Genetic testing wasn't around in '92. The neurologist said I do have an inherited ataxia. I am currently waiting for my

Are there any others with FA in your family? No one else has FA or a diagnosis of ataxia in my family.

Describe your transition from walking to walker/wheelchair: My transition from walking to a wheelchair was not an easy one, to say the least! I am pretty stubborn and feisty, strongly spirited at times, and fought to stay walking until I fell and severely broke my arm (requiring a plate and 6 screws.) I remained walking (assistance from other people, furniture and "wall walking") for 13 years until I realized it was safer and easier for me and others to use a chair.

Gabe collageWhat do you like to do to stay active and what type of exercises work for you to stay strong? I am always moving and active in some way... I think its key; as well as a positive attitude in dealing with FA or anything in life. I like to work on my upper body strength, mostly arms, but some core too!

Do you have any hobbies or special interests? My dog is very important to me, he is vital to my health and happiness! His name is Jack and he's a sweet little beagle. I love to travel! I go on the FA Rafting Trip every year if I'm able to, it's very important to me. I love to be outside and enjoying nature.

What is a good trick to make daily life easier? I feel that having a good/positive attitude helps makes life easier to enjoy! I know life isn't always easy and carefree but your attitude makes the difference.

When FA gets you down, what do you think/do to feel better? When I'm feeling down and or sad I like to go out and be around people, nature (a great healer), animals or my dog. I talk with someone about whatever is bothering me instead of keeping it in. My counselor was a good resource for me to talk to.

What is one way of living with FA has POSITIVELY affected your life? FA (or whatever my diagnosis is) has brought many positives to my life. One way it's made a positive effect is that it has made me empathetic towards others; life isn't just black and white.

What is a favorite motivational quote of yours? Many quotes motivate me, here is one: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." ~Mahatma Gandhi

What is a piece of advice that someone with FA has given you that encourages and inspires you? DO NOT GIVE UP!!!

What is the best advice YOU could give to a person who has been newly diagnosed with FA? DO NOT GIVE UP!!! Attitude is very important!!! Keep your body in motion, your mind healthy; eat as healthy and nutritious as you can. Life will be full of bumps but try to enjoy it. Also, you can't control everything.

What is the first thing you want to do when a cure/treatment to FA is found? There are many things I'd like to do when FA has a cure/treatment but I think I'd really enjoy taking my dog for a walk in a place I can't take him in now. Plus I'd like to be able to put my earrings

"I have FA but FA doesn't have me." What does this statement mean to you? How do you live your life in the face of adversity? I still live MY LIFE despite FA, it might be different or slower but I'm living it!

Tell us a little more about you... I could tell you more about myself but just talk to me to do that.