21-year-old doesn't let disease get in his way

December 23, 2010 3:19:42 PM PST
When most think of their future, it doesn't include being diagnosed with a debilitating and life-shortening disease. But when it happened to one student from Spring Garden, he decided he wanted to spread the word about the disease, but also not let it get in the way of living life to the fullest.

21-year-old Liam Dougherty started playing the violin when he was 8 years old.

He continued into high school and even got to play in Budapest and Berlin.

"We got to play in some castles and palaces and that was really cool," Liam said.

But shortly after that, Liam had to give up playing.

"It was just so much of a struggle to play," Liam said.

You see, Liam was diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia when he was 15. It's a rare and progressive disease. It can lead to heart problems and muscle loss, causing weakness, loss of coordination and balance.

"The scariest part about it is there is no cure, there's no pill you can take," his father Daniel Dougherty said.

But despite this, Liam has learned to accept the disease and adapt. He and his family are involved with the Freidreich's Ataxia Research Alliance or FARA to help raise money for research.

But while Liam hopes for a cure, he's not dwelling on it.

He's found a new way to express himself through writing for his college bulletin.

His father says everyone can learn a lot from Liam.

"He has a lot of spirit and a great outlook," Daniel said.

Liam says he falls down a lot, literally and metaphorically, but, "there's no reason not to get back up," he adds.

Liam will be graduating from St. John's College in Annapolis this spring. He hopes to get a job where he can continue writing.

Here is a link for more information about Freidreich's Ataxia and the Research Alliance: www.curefa.org