Opportunities amid sobering challenges

CHICO, Calif. — What a difference two years can make. Two years ago the life of Bryce Thorup, 60, of the Paradise 1st Ward, Chico California Stake, seemed very ordinary. As an attorney, he worked hard to provide for his family and spent his leisure time doing what he loves — tending a large garden and caring for his fruit trees.

Now he can only think about such activities. Instead of canning his home-grown vegetables and pruning fruit trees, he can barely turn the page of a book. Now, instead of practicing law, he is writing children's books.

In December 2003, he began noticing weakness in his hands. In March he began having difficulty walking. The symptoms progressed, and by October 2004, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuromuscular disease that weakens and eventually destroys motor neurons. This is commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

"Being diagnosed with a disease that is incurable, untreatable and fatal is a very sobering experience," Brother Thorup said. "After my diagnosis, I went through a real mental trial. I could see myself becoming weaker and weaker and able to do less and less. My future looked gloomy. I decided I needed to do some things that I had always wanted to do, but had never done."

One of those things was to write some children's books. He has a passion for agriculture, especially apple trees, of which he has a dozen varieties growing in his back yard. Ever intrigued by the thousands of apple variety names, he decided to experiment with using apple variety names as part of the text in his children's stories. In fact, he was recently honored as one of six semi-finalists for Independent Publishers Publication of the Year. In the children's interactive category, he received honorable mention for his book, The Two Birthdays.

No longer able to type due to the disease, he uses a voice-recognition program to dictate his stories. "From the moment I decided to go ahead with this, my outlook turned from negative to positive. Instead of concentrating on my deteriorating physical condition, I was glad to be engaged in a good cause. I was creating something. I was building something. I had goals that occupied my mind. I had something to be excited about and something to look forward to. I felt useful and productive. It has made all the difference in my mental outlook."

Staying positive can be a difficult challenge when faced with the trials that Brother Thorup and his wife, Irene, are faced with. Having this disease has given Brother Thorup new and heightened insights.

"You realize that family relationships are more important than anything else. I knew that before I became sick, but not as forcefully as I do now. When you are faced with the prospect of no longer enjoying the company of your family, you realize just how precious those associations are.

"You realize what a blessing the gospel and the Church can be. Our bishoprics, priesthood quorums, home teachers, Relief Society, youth organizations and members have been very good and very helpful. The more you become dependent on others, the more you appreciate their help. Those rendering service often do not realize the blessing they are to those in need. The more incapacitated I become, the more and greater burdens are placed on my wife. I am ever so grateful that she is willing to bear the burdens. The goodness and help of our ward members has been a real blessing to both of us.

"Barring divine intervention, my time on earth is coming to a close," Brother Thorup said. "Whether it is two years or 10 years, I plan to do as much as I can as long as I can."

Brother and Sister Thorup have three sons, Daniel, who served in the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission; Brian, who served in the Illinois Chicago North Mission; and Andrew, who is serving in the Brazil Florianopolis Mission.

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