Veteran diagnosed with ALS raises thousands for bucket list, medical research

Melissa Siebert is the mother of 2 young children

Michigan native and U.S. veteran Melissa Siebert was diagnosed with ALS in early February. The disease progresses quickly, so she made a bucket list and has already raised 86 hundred dollars to make those adventures happen.

DETROIT – Michigan native and U.S. veteran Melissa Siebert was diagnosed with ALS early February.

“To hear that when you’re 41 years old, is crushing,” said Siebert. “The neurologist even cried telling me because I was the fifth person that he had diagnosed in 10 days.

Siebert served in Afghanistan and went to a VA hospital in Virginia where she lives meaning those four other patients her neurologist diagnosed were also veterans.

Dr. Eva Feldman, University of Michigan professor of neurology and director of its ALS Center of Excellence said veterans are at a higher risk.

“The average risk is somewhere between two and three fold higher if you have served in the military, versus if you have not served in the military, in developing ALS and there’s a particularly high peak in Gulf War veterans,” Feldman said.

Multiple studies have been done to find out why.

“They are exposed to pollutants, to air pollution to pesticides, more than an individual who’s not necessarily in the military and we believe that is strongly driving ALS risk,” said Feldman.

For Siebert, knowing other veterans are battling this same disease didn’t make sharing her diagnosis with her wife, Kristin, any easier.

“We have two young children. We have a five year old and a three year old. It’s devastating,” Kristin Siebert said.

While it may seem odds are against Melissa Siebert, they are hopeful.

“The prognosis for most people with ALS is like three to five years. But there’s like a 10% of people that make it past 10 years. I’m thankful that they think they caught it early enough where I’ll maybe be in that 10%,” Melissa Siebert said.

In the meantime, their family wants to make as many memories as possible. Siebert’s bucket list includes a Disney trip. She was born in Detroit and grew up in St. Clair Shores, so there are a few hometown favorites on the list too.

“I’ve never been to a major league game and I’ve said you know, ‘Why not make it the Tigers?’ I have never been to a game at the Big House, “ Siebert said. ”I want to take our girls to Belle Isle, I used to play at Belle Isle all the time when I was a little kid.”

Through GoFundMe she has already raised more than $8,600 to make those adventures happen and to help with research. To donate, click here.

“There is no cure, but they’re getting close. They’re so close to something that maybe can’t cure it but can stop it,” said Siebert.

Read: More ALS news coverage

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.