Meet Pam!Name: Pam Shortt

Age: 35

Where do you call home? Ontario, Canada

Relationship status? Do you have children? Married for 13 years and counting. We have one nine year old son.

Occupation/Employment: I stopped working 10 years ago. Now I am a stay at home wife & mom which is busy, busy, busy!

Education: I graduated in 2000 with honors as a Registered Nurse.

How long have you been living (or known you are living) with Friedreich's Ataxia? I started having balance and gait issues around 15 years old. Certainly made high school more interesting! It was obvious that there was something not quite right but doctors put it down to me being a klutz. At 19, in nursing school, we were studying the nervous system and practicing performing neurological exams. I failed! I went to a neurologist and he knew it was Friedreich's Ataxia. I was sent for countless tests & finally diagnosed via genetic testing.

Do you have any known family history of Friedreich's Ataxia or similar symptoms? No known cases within my family. I'm the only lucky one!!!!

Describe your transition from walking to walker/wheelchair. I got my wheelchair about three years ago. I walked around my house using the walls & furniture and when I went out anywhere, I would take someone's arm. I began breaking bones due to falling so I knew it was time. I wasn't happy about getting a wheelchair because I figured I would lose physical strength and self sufficiency. Once my chair arrived I realized quickly how much more I could do and that I was more independent then I had been for a few years..

What do you like to do to stay active and what type of exercises do you do to stay strong? I have a husband and son who keep me very active and a house to run which I do on my own. I volunteer and co-manage my son's soccer team. In terms of exercise, I do a lot of core strengthening, arm exercises and stretching. I have a Catrike, which is a great leg workout and bike rides are one of our favorite family activities.

What's your most comfortable pair of shoes to wear? To be totally honest I can't stand shoes. I'm barefoot when it's appropriate. If I had to choose a pair of shoes that I own, my favorites are my Skechers Flex. They're lightweight, easy to put on and very comfortable.

Do you have a diet plan you like to follow, and why? I eat a well balanced diet. I try to keep my intake of artificial sugars low as well as fats in order to keep my heart healthy.

Do you participate in any adaptive sports or recreational activities? I downhill ski with the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS) here in Canada every winter. Love it! I also horseback ride and ride my Catrike when I can. Next on my list is adaptive rowing.

What is one way living with Friedreich's Ataxia has POSITIVELY affected your life? Living with FA has made me stronger and more confident. It has made me non-judgmental, patient and appreciative of everybody and everything in my life.

What is the best advice you could give to a person who has been newly diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia? Live each and every day to the fullest and take it as it comes. Stay positive and never lose your sense of humor. Laughter is the best medicine! Never lose hope and hold onto your dreams and goals. Have fun! Life is what you make it. If you want to do something, don't let anyone stand in your way. Nothing is impossible!!!!

What is the first thing you want to do when a cure/treatment for Friedreich's Ataxia is found? There are so many things I would do if a cure is found and I could walk again but going somewhere with my family and not requiring assistance for anything would be at the top of the list.

"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? It's my life and I live it the way I want. FA does not control me or define who I am. I do everything that I want to do, I just do some things differently. Where there's a will, there's a way!!!

We are stronger together! Find a new "Meet the Community" interview every Monday. Lauren