REGIONAL- A longtime Iron Range lawmaker is vowing to continue to represent his constituents after revealing this past week that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also …
REGIONAL- A longtime Iron Range lawmaker is vowing to continue to represent his constituents after revealing this past week that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
District 6 State Sen. David Tomassoni, of Chisholm, a 29-year legislative veteran in both the House and Senate, made the announcement in a letter published in the Mesabi Tribune on July 16.
“There is no sugar coating it – this is a tough disease,” Tomassoni said. “I will feel the effects of it in my speech, my movement, and my life.”
ALS is a rare neurological disease, commonly diagnosed between 55 and 75 years old, that causes the nerves controlling voluntary muscle movements to deteriorate. Initial symptoms can include muscle twitches, cramps, tightness and weakness, slurred speech, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. Over time, affected individuals gradually lose strength and their abilities to move, speak, eat, and even breathe, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. There is no known cure.
Tomassoni did not say specifically when he was diagnosed, but he said ALS was something he had to deal with during the recently-completed legislative term.
“I want you to know that I am a person living and working with ALS,” Tomassoni said. “I have had it for a while now as I worked all through the entire legislative session feeling its effects. Initially, I decided to not let anyone know about it, but dealing with it upfront and becoming an advocate seems to be the right direction to go. I intend to look at each day as the best day of the rest of our lives and I’m going to live with this disease. Many have lived and successfully contributed back to the community with ALS.”
Tomassoni was firm in his commitment to continue to represent the interests of his district in the legislature.
“I am going to continue representing you to the best of my abilities like I have always tried to do in elected office,” he said. “I give you my word that my brain and my body will continue to represent you with the same passion and vigor I’ve tried to give in the past. I have been fortunate and blessed in my life, my career, in sports, and with friends and a great family. This is the next challenge.”
A Minnesota Public Radio report noted that Tomassoni, 68, was first elected to the state House in 1992. He was elected to the Senate in 2000 and is currently the Senate president. The longtime DFLer is now caucusing as an Independent, although he continues to consider himself a Democrat.
Contacted on Tuesday via email by the Timberjay, Tomassoni expressed gratitude for the response he’s received to his announcement.
“I just want to thank everyone who contacted me with their best wishes, prayers and advice,” he said. “They mean very much to me and I want them all to know that I feel fine and I’ll be around for a while longer. I’m finding that the ALS network is extensive, and I look forward to getting involved.”