Talented football player Jan Plessers was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 20.
About 10 years ago the young football player Jan Plessers was told he had ALS. Despite his disease Jan still has a postive attitude towards life. His optimism is contagious and shared by his family. An interview with this courageous young man.
“I am 30 years young and from Lommel in Limburg”, Jan Plessers starts. “I was diagnosed about 10 years with the disease ALS. Before the diagnosis I worked as a carpenter. In a way I am “glad” that ALS was diagnosed when I was so young. I was only 20 years old. If the disease would have been diagnosed 15 or 20 years later, I would have already built a life with wife and children. I don’t know if I would be able to handle such a situation. Now I got this difficult diagnosis at the age of 20. My life as I knew it was already over before it had properly started.”
The first symptoms
“The first signs of the disease appeared when I started to experience a loss of strength and when my index finger was suddenly bent. This was rather annoying, because I played football on a high level (with the former third division club KVSK United Lommerl-Overpelt, Ed.) In April 2015 while I was on the pitch, the symptoms worsened. My legs felt as heavy as lead. A few days later, on the 12th of April 2015, the diagnosis of ALS followed.”
Reactions on the diagnosis
“I reacted rather calm on the bad news. Only a few days later I started to realise I was never going to play football again. That realization was heavy to bear. But for the rest I am still as positive as I was before. Even though of course there are difficult days. My parents and brother on the other hand were shocked after hearing the diagnosis. However in the meantime they handle my disease well. I believe my positive attitude has contributed to that.”
Impact of the disease
“Before my disease I was only vaguely aware of what ALS meant. However when I was diagnosed back in 2005, I immediately contacted fellow patient Danny Vyvey. He was a well-known ALS patient. In a way he was someone I could mirror myself on. It is evident that the disease has a big impact on my life. As mentioned I can no longer play football which was my biggest passion. Today I am very much occupied with the computer: maintaining websites, watching many movies and TV series, etc. In addition I have founded the indoor football club ‘Terrezza Lommel’ together with a couple of friends. As their ‘team captain’ I mainly hold a position on the sidelines.”
“My family is really important to me. Without them I would simply be lost. My parents and brother do everything for me. And they do everything themselves, without external help. In addition I take heart from the fact that I am a godparent and uncle.”
Importance of the ALS Liga
“I find the support from the ALS Liga very important. In my opinion the available information and service delivey are great. The role of the computer and the help operating it are really useful. I even waited too long with the acquisition.”
Three important questions for Jan Plessers
Which positive message you want to give other ALS patients?
“Above all, do what you like to do.”
What are you most proud of?
“As youth player I saw quite a bit of the world when travelling with the Belgian national youth team. I have pretty much been everywhere, apart from the United States.”
What do you still want to do or achieve in your life?
“I would really like to go to Las Vegas once. And as a car fanatic, I would like to take the passenger seat in a rally car. For example in one of rally driver Freddy Loix’ cars.”
ED: Danique, Peter, Rudi & Marianne… are you reading this – especially this last answer?
In 2005 ALS abruptly ended Jan Plessers’ young football career. Until then football had dominated his entire life.
Jan Plessers: “I played for the Belgian national youth teams. With the U-16, U-17 and U-18 I discovered the world. Those were my best football years. When Lommel went bankrupt, I transferred for free to the big club PSV Eindhoven. With this Dutch football club I signed a contract for 3 years, but left the club after 2 years. Actually my health had already started to weaken then. When I look back, I believe I had the qualities to succeed in the football world. This may sound arrogant, but I think I am allowed to say it out loud. After my time with PSV, I chose to play together with my brother for the former club KVSK United in the third division. I was 19, but nothing seemed to be going well. I kept on struggling for another 6 months until I was forced to stop.”
Translation: Lynn Osten
Source: ALS Liga-magazine 170 – October, November, December 2015