2015-05-21 / Health & Wellness

Grandmother stays upbeat despite illness

By Sylvie Belmond


A HAPPY LIFE—Far left, Judy and Richard Sherman of Calabasas read to the children at their granddaughter Lauren’s Bay Laurel Elementary School class. Left, the family throws a party on May 8 for Judy Sherman’s birthday. Her husband, Richard, and their daughter Alicia Weintraub join in the festivities. Judy Sherman has a rare neurological condition that gives her difficulty walking and balancing, but she continues to stay positive and active. A HAPPY LIFE—Far left, Judy and Richard Sherman of Calabasas read to the children at their granddaughter Lauren’s Bay Laurel Elementary School class. Left, the family throws a party on May 8 for Judy Sherman’s birthday. Her husband, Richard, and their daughter Alicia Weintraub join in the festivities. Judy Sherman has a rare neurological condition that gives her difficulty walking and balancing, but she continues to stay positive and active. Despite having a rare neurological condition that affects her mobility, Calabasas resident Judy Sherman is determined to stay active and upbeat.

A wife, mother and a grandmother of four, Sherman carries on with her daily routine and travels regularly to New York to be involved in her grandchildren’s lives.

She was diagnosed with ataxia in 2012, a condition which affects her coordination and balance.

There is no cure for the disorder, which can take different forms depending on the patient.


Photos courtesy of Alicia Weintraub Photos courtesy of Alicia Weintraub According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ataxia occurs when parts of the nervous system that control movement are damaged.

The condition typically affects mobility, coordination and speech, causing those with the disorder to have problems walking and to slur their words.

“Anyone of any age can get it, but certain types are more common in certain age groups,” said Sherman, 65, who was diagnosed with a progressive nonhereditary type of ataxia.

She said she’s still strong but her balance is poor so she has to be careful not to fall.

Ataxia can be hereditary or acquired. According to the National Ataxia Foundation, underlying conditions such as multiple sclerosis or head trauma can trigger symptoms.

Sherman doesn’t have a history of multiple sclerosis or head trauma, and doctors don’t know the cause of her condition.

Alicia Weintraub, Sherman’s daughter, said her mother doesn’t focus on the obstacles or feel sorry for herself. Instead she remains vibrant and cheerful.

“My mom is a hero for continuing to smile even as her life has been presented with such a large obstacle,” Weintraub said.

Sherman and her husband of nearly 45 years, Richard, moved to Calabasas from Northridge about seven years ago. Richard Sherman is a semiretired clinical psychologist and president of the Calabasas Park Homeowners Association.

“She is one of the most incredibly positive individuals I’ve ever met,” Richard Sherman said of his wife.

“She always sees the brightness in other people. This allows her to move forward. She is determined, positive and caring.”

The Shermans have two daughters: Alicia, a former City Council candidate who serves on the Calabasas Planning Commission, and Alexis, who lives in New York with her family.

Each daughter has two children. Noah, 8, and Lauren, 5, live in Calabasas. Ben, 5, and Henry, 3, are in New York.

“They are the biggest joy in my life,” Judy Sherman said.

On her birthday, May 8, Sherman was getting ready to visit her granddaughter’s class at Bay Laurel Elementary School to read a book to the children.

“I can still be a vital contributor to the community, and I’m a big part of my children’s life. You just have to keep a positive spirit,” she said.

Weintraub said her mother continues to be an inspiration to everyone who knows her.

Even when it takes a great deal of help and energy to get where she’s going, Sherman makes it a point to be at all her grandchildren’s activities.

“She keeps her head held high, even when knowing that people are looking at her and wondering what is wrong,” Weintraub said.

She said that since her mother was diagnosed with ataxia she has become a quiet advocate for making areas of her community accessible to people with special needs, including advocating for better lighting outside The Oaks’ community center and seeking to expand cellphone coverage in the neighborhood.

“It’s a big problem,” Sherman said, adding that more cell towers are needed in the area.

To slow the progression of her symptoms, Sherman goes to physical therapy and takes yoga and swim classes.

She keeps her mind alert by learning Spanish with her husband through the city’s Savvy Seniors program.

“I don’t want anything to get in my way,” Sherman said.

A retired medical information specialist, she uses that experience to find the most qualified physicians for her condition and to stay abreast of the latest research and treatments for ataxia.

“She doesn’t give up on things,” her husband said. “She is determined in a kind and loving way.”

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