May 7, 2002
By Erica Heilman
It's been twenty years since television viewers were first introduced to the antics of Laverne and Shirley and their truck-driving sidekicks, Lenny and Squiggy. And as the anniversary of the classic sitcom brings back memories of good time years with the gang, it also marks the beginning of a difficult chapter for its goofiest member, Squiggy Squigmann.
Shortly following his seven years on the show, David Lander, better known as 'Squiggy', started experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis. "I noticed that I was having a lot of difficulty with my balance," said Lander. "Then I had a really shocking reality check when I got out of bed one day and went splat, right on the floor. I just couldn't feel my legs and I couldn't walk."
There are approximately 350,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide living with multiple sclerosis, a disease that may affect any area of the nervous system, causing a wide variety of symptoms such as visual problems, weakness, or numbness. And though there are a number of effective treatments for MS, there is still no known cure.
Fearing that his disease could cost him roles in the competitive world of show business, Lander decided to keep his diagnosis to himself. "When I started walking again and they discharged me from the hospital, I told my wife we must keep this a secret," said Lander. "I didn't want to test the waters by saying "Hey, I have MS." I figured maybe I'd get a movie of the week now and then, but that would be it. So the secret was kept."
But after fifteen years of silence, David Lander made a decision to go public with his news. He has written a book chronicling his life with MS, titled Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn't Tell Nobody.
Lander also talks with people across the country about his personal experiences living with MS, and discusses the benefits of early and regular treatment. "I think that it's important that people -- especially newly diagnosed people -- see that you can function with this thing," said Lander. "It isn't the end of the world. There are treatments for it now. You can start early, a lot earlier than I did, and you can live a good, useful, creative existence."
One part milk one part Pepsi... two parts courage. Here's to you Squiggy!
Copyright 2002 Healthology, Inc.