I’m (Mostly) Thankful for Friedreich’s Ataxia

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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I recently wrote about my gratitude for the people I’ve been privileged to meet and build friendships with since my Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) diagnosis. My frame of mind when writing that column was affected by the outpouring of love and well wishes that I received following a recent injury.

That thought process has stuck with me but has since undergone a shift. With Thanksgiving a few days away, this holiday tends to be a natural “evaluation” time for many Americans. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to examine our lives and express gratitude for our blessings.

Some people may be thankful for their children, their health, or their career. Others may be thankful for a new iPhone or video game. I’m willing to bet that “what” we are thankful for often correlates with age and experience.

Not only has FA allowed me to connect with many courageous people, but it has also had a profound impact on the person I am today.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I’m thankful for in terms of character, personality, identity, and conviction. A person is much more than a disease or a diagnosis, but I realize that my diagnosis has had a hand in shaping me.

Of course, my diagnosis isn’t the only or the biggest contributor to who I am, how I see myself, or my worldview. However, FA has had an undeniable impact on my life, and in large part, I am mostly thankful for that.

Thanks to FA, I wake up each day with an urgency to get things done. I’ve learned to take action instead of waiting or stalling. Thanks to FA, I’ve recognized the barriers that my mind can create and the power and strength of my body, despite my mental challenges. Thanks to FA, I’ve learned to value the beauty of waking up, no matter how hard it might be on any given day. Thanks to FA, I’ve learned to appreciate my sense of humor and lean on it no matter what I’m up against.  

Thanks to FA, I live by employing more reasons than excuses and sometimes the mentality behind each reason makes a difference to my attitude and personal performance.

Finally, thanks to FA, I’ve become more consistent. I feel privileged to write this column and share my experiences with you. This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that you continue to read.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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