My name is Ashlea Smith, and I was diagnosed with FA at 16 in 1998. I'm 35 years old and live in Aliquippa (20 miles west of Pittsburgh) with my husband, 13-year-old stepdaughter, 5-year-old son, dog, and 2 cats. I work part-time for a nonprofit organization that serves children and families in the local area.
I began showing symptoms such as loss of balance and coordination at the age of 14, and it became most evident in activities that I had previously excelled in such as cheerleading, dance, gymnastics, swimming, and softball. After my diagnosis, I was able to finish high school without really confronting too many obstacles of the disease. My family and friends were integral in getting me through those years. I started having more trouble with my mobility throughout college and really struggled with how to come to terms with what was happening to my body. I pushed so hard against using any kind of mobility aid and tried desperately to keep my independence.