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By Chelsea Swift

Almost 20 years ago, Joyce Valimont learned she inherited a gene mutation that affects the brain, called Huntington’s Disease.

Valimont said when she found out, her first concern was her family because all of her children have a 50 percent chance of inheriting it.

“I have seven kids right now,” Valimont said. “I have 17 grandkids and 14 great-grandkids, so I’m thinking all these people have a chance of having this disease… I didn’t know how I would be, and we didn’t know where it came from.” 

Valimont said they traced the disease back to her father. Since then, one of her cousins has died from Huntington’s, which causes a breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.

She considers herself lucky for not showing symptoms until later in life.

“A lot of times, it hits people in there, working [for] years and really has a big effect on them,” she said. “So, as far as I was concerned, it didn’t have that big of an effect.”

Dr. Sarah Breon of LECOM said gathering with families affected by Huntington’s Disease gives them the support they need. 

“It hard to watch a family member slowly deteriorate mentally and physically,” said Dr. Sarah of LECOM. “And I think that’s just something that’s why the support group is needed for the family.

Breon lost her father to the disease. She said every year, the Erie community comes together in September for a walk for the cure.

That walk is coming up Sunday, Sept. 19th at 9 a.m. Registration is free. However, T-shirts are sold for $30. All proceeds will go toward research.