She was diagnosed seven years ago with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disease that is often deadly and has no known cure. ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, impacting movement, speech, and the ability to eat and breathe.
Melissa Erickson, known by her friends and family as ‘Mo’, played on the UW Women’s basketball team from 1998-2001 before coaching in Louisiana and later at UNLV in Las Vegas. In the fall of 2002 she landed a position on a Germany basketball team and then Portugal.
It was then that Erickson started noticing balance issues and muscle cramps. She was diagnosed with ALS in August of 2006 at the age of 27. Most people who develop the disease are an average age of 55.
After her diagnosis, Melissa’s former UW teammates, friends and family launched the Melissa Erickson Foundation to raise awareness for ALS research and to help with Erickson’s growing medical expenses.
On the Foundation’s website, Erickson penned an inspirational quote about her journey: “My life has taken many different turns and I have journeyed down a path I never thought existed. However, despite all of the disappointment and setbacks I have learned to view life in a new way. I can truly say that I enjoy the simple things in life. Each day is cherished in a new and inviting way. My family and friends are the very blood that runs through my veins.”
Sarah Duncan, a former teammate of Erickson’s and co-founder of the Melissa Erickson Foundation says the future of the charity is unknown right now and released the following statement: “Melissa was a courageous woman and inspiration to all as she fought her battle with ALS. Her positive attitude, infectious smile and sense of humor will forever be remembered. On behalf of the Melissa Erickson Foundation, we wish to say thank you to all of Melissa’s friends, family and the community for their constant support and encouragement of Melissa during her fight. Melissa was always passionate about raising awareness for ALS and exploring all avenues to find a cure. We hope the community continues to rally together in honor of Melissa to spread the word about ALS and beat this disease.”
Erickson was surrounded by family and friends as she peacefully passed away. Memorial service plans have not yet been announced.