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May 14, 2004 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-05-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The long-running bestseller Tuesdays
with Morrie, written by Detroit Free Press
columnist Mitch Albom, was a huge
inspiration to Valerie because it got a
very personal story about ALS into the
public consciousness.
That being said, Valerie thinks the
books are ultimately dissimilar. Morrie
was at a different phase of life when he
became ill in his 70s. Jenifer was only
35, on the cusp of getting married and
having children.
"Morrie really taught us so much
about the art of letting go, which is such
a key to life. On the other hand, some-
times you have to hold on with every-
thing you have, which is what Jenifer's
book is all about," notes Valerie.
More than a story about coping with
the physical and emotional devastation
of ALS, Tales From the Bed is also a per-
sonal account of a dysfunctional family,
one that ultimately drew the sisters even
closer together. They learned to survive
when their father left and their mother
fell apart.
Valerie and Meredith gave Jenifer
many gifts, from sharing their children
with her to helping prolong her life
through unconditional love and Project
A.L.S.
Jenifer, in turn, taught her sisters how
to keep "your grace under pressure," says
Valerie. No matter what life threw
Jenifer, she was always able to step up
and do her best. In a nutshell, Jenifer
taught both Meredith and Valerie how
to grow up. "She taught me how to
live," acknowledges Valerie.
The Jewish Estess family was assimi-
lated and not very religious.
While there were no traditions for the
sisters to inherit, Valerie firmly believes
that the automatic close bond between
them is largely owing to their Jewish
faith. Throughout history, the Jews
know when to come together, she says.
In 1997, the doctors told Jenifer and
her sisters that a cure was 20 years down
the road. While the forecast is not much
different today, there is great promise on
the horizon, including one gene therapy
project that is on the verge of being
brought to human trial.
"At the dawn of the new century,
there wasn't much of anything. Now,
only . a few years later, we're looking
potentially at the first effective treat-
ments for this uniformly fatal disease,"
says Valerie. 111

The documentary Three Sisters:
Searching For A Cure airs 8 p.m.
Wednesday, May 19, on HBO.
Tales From the Bed will be pub-
lished May 18.

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