An Alpha-1 COPD Love Story: A 'Must Read'

October 31, 2011

Sally Everett writes about her life with Alpha-1 lung disease — and with her husband, Gordon Snider, MD


First printed in Alpha-1-To-One magazine<

It was January 1993; I was about to turn 50 and seemingly a picture of health. I ate right, I didn’t smoke, I was almost never sick and I exercised regularly. Less than a month later, however, I’d been diagnosed with COPD and Alpha-1, the genetic abnormality that caused it. My doctor said I had, at most, 10 years to live.

At first, I was devastated.

But then, I met some other Alphas, chief among them John Walsh, and he told me he needed an Alpha lawyer on the Alpha-1 Foundation board.

When I first met John, I was long over the initial shock of my Alpha-1 COPD diagnosis and, though I may not have known it myself, I was in need of a larger purpose for my life. What he offered me, at first glance, was a chance to devote myself to helping others – always the best antidote to feeling sorry for oneself. At the same time, I would be helping advance a cure for Alpha-1 COPD and liver disease. Needless to say, he didn’t have to do much convincing.

In January 1997, I joined the Foundation board, coincidentally at the same time as Gordon L. Snider, MD. Gordon had an international reputation as an Alpha-1 COPD physician/scientist and, at first, I was in awe of him.

Over time, however, I discovered that Gordon was happy to give of his time to help Alphas in any way he could. We were both elected to the Foundation’s executive committee. We became friends. Eventually, we began to share pieces of our personal lives with each other.

In early April 2001, I got a surprise telephone call from Gordon. I say surprise because, except for Foundation business, Gordon and I had talked on the telephone only once. In typical fashion, Gordon got straight to the point. He said he loved me and he wanted to start a relationship with me. For the first and only time in my life that I can remember, I was speechless! Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I blurted out the first thing that came into my mind. I asked Gordon if I could get back to him in a couple of weeks. Amazingly, he agreed.

For the next two weeks, all I could think about was Gordon. How had he had the courage to tell me how he felt out of the blue like that? Later, he would tell me that he could not, not tell me. He was also pretty sure that, even if I didn’t know it, I felt the same way too. Believe me, I didn’t know it at the time. He had totally turned my life upside down. What would happen if I said yes? What would happen if I refused him?

As promised, I called Gordon back two weeks later. I told him I still wasn’t sure exactly how I felt, but I knew I cared for him. If he was willing to try to start a relationship based on that, I was willing, too. Even though I was truly scared at the time, I was also happy when Gordon said yes.

Gordon is 21 years my senior. At the time, however, he was the healthy one and he promised to take care of me. Neither of us could have predicted that, less than two years later, Gordon would have a stroke and our roles would reverse. Neither could we have predicted that, three years after that, Gordon would be fighting for his life following chemotherapy for B-Cell lymphoma.

Later on, I decided this story belongs in a book.

That is why I wrote An Alpha-1 COPD Love Story, the story of my amazing journey with Alpha-1 COPD and my husband, Gordon. In honor of all those who mentored me along my way, I will donate half my proceeds from the sale of this book to the Alpha-1 Foundation.

I now know that my Alpha-1 COPD diagnosis is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Together, we will find a cure, if not for me, then for my children and my grandchildren.


Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have An Alpha-1 COPD Love Story available to order online – both in paperback and as an e-book – and you can also order it from your local book store.

After you read the book, Sally Everett hopes you’ll post a review of the book at the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

It will help to spread the word!

To order the book or post a book review:


Barnes & Noble: