From The Update: An Unexpected Fight—Local UFC Star & His Grandmother Battle ALS Together

It has been a busy few months for Joaquin Buckley, who Saturday night was a winner in his latest UFC fight to push his record to 13-4. But as he recently shared with us in the latest edition of The Update newsletter, his most important role is that of caregiver to his grandmother Peggy Brooks, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2017. Here is their story:

You wouldn’t know just by looking at 27-year old UFC Knockout of the Year Winner Joaquin Buckley that he’s facing challenges brought on by a neurodegenerative disease. Though he’s not the one experiencing symptoms, his life was forever altered when his grandmother was diagnosed with ALS in 2017.

For Buckley’s entire life his grandmother, Peggy Brooks, had taken care of him—but with her diagnosis, it became his turn to take on the role as caregiver. While this is an extremely difficult job for anyone, Buckley did not hesitate to fight another battle: this time, for his beloved grandmother.

Buckley explains that while the person playing the role of caregiver has changed, the nature of their relationship remains the same. “We laugh together, love together and get frustrated together, just like we always have,” he says.

While Buckley humbly disagrees that he is a public figure, he understands that he’s in a position to speak out about ALS. Like many others, he was in the dark about ALS prior to his grandmother’s diagnosis and had to learn quickly. He speaks out about the impact of the disease because most people would never know that he is dealing with the hardships of ALS. “You never know what someone is going through,” he acknowledges.

Peggy Brooks with her grandson Joaquin Buckley

This is often the concern for those who are dealing with ALS; many feel as though they are alone in this fight, and it takes people like Buckley to normalize asking for help and seeking out support.

Luckily, in the case of Buckley and Brooks, there is no lack of support. Buckley receives an abundance of help from his family, girlfriend and the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter. For example, for Christmas one year, Buckley was able to rent a lift that allowed his grandmother to put ornaments on the tree with him. Buckley notes it is things like this that make their experience with the Chapter particularly special.

To balance his professional career as an athlete with responsibilities as a full-time caregiver, Buckley and his family have created a tight schedule to make sure Brooks is always taken care of. While it takes many sacrifices, a support system can make all the difference.

While he describes his grandmother as, “the glue that held us together,” the whole family has rallied to help her—so much so that Brooks tells her family ALS does not stand for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis but rather, “Abundance of Love and Support.” It’s an inspiring sentiment anyone can use to remember the importance of community.

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