Experiences Make Life Full

It’s the experiences in life that make it full.  Elizabeth “Biz” Them has dedicated her life to making sure people are aware of the impact they can make on others.  Biz, a 2013 Physical Therapy Assistant graduate of North Central State College was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, which is a fatal progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain, causing loss of muscle use.

People with ALS lose their ability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breathe.  The diagnosis usually comes for people between the ages of 40 to 70 but can strike at any time.  Biz was diagnosed at the young age of 32.  It’s her outlook on life that inspires others.  “I know it sounds cliché,” she says with a smile, “but just living every day to the absolute fullest is so important.  Grab every opportunity that you get.”

And that’s something Biz can say she does daily.  She takes advantage of every opportunity in front of her in life, including getting a quality education.

Biz is a 2003 graduate of Madison Comprehensive High School.  She started at college in Indiana and played basketball.  However, circumstances brought her back to Ohio where she took classes at Ashland University.  After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, she worked for two years but didn’t find pleasure in her chosen field.

After hearing about the Physical Therapy Program at North Central State College, she enrolled, taking advantage of yet another opportunity.  “Honestly, I heard nothing but great things about the program and that influenced me to enroll,” Biz explains.  “I had a wonderful experience.  It was very affordable.  Even if you need a loan, you’re going to pay it back quickly.  Every staff member and instructor I ever encountered at the college was top-notch.”

“The whole program ran very smoothly.  I learned a ton.  I was fully prepared for my board exams to work right after graduation.”

“The staff at North Central State was amazing,” Biz says.  “I enjoyed all of my classes.  We had small class sizes, and a fantastic lab to learn in.”

After graduation, Biz joined OhioHealth’s outpatient clinic as a Physical Therapy Assistant, where she had a chance to work with her best friend and now part-time caretaker, Cassie Taylor.  “Cassie graduated from North Central State College’s PTA program as well,” Biz says while coaxing her friend to join the conversation.  “We learned together, we worked together.  We’ve known each other for about eight years now.”

Cassie steps forward, smiling at Biz, “We became really good friends when we were co-workers together at OhioHealth.  I still work at the same clinic.  On occasion, I bring Biz to the clinic to hang out with everyone and have lunch.”

“After I graduated from North Central, all of my classmates got jobs right away,” Cassie says.  “I had an interview at OhioHealth on the same day of my graduation and started working within two weeks.”

Biz adds, “Cassie and I were in our mid-20s when we were at North Central.  We didn’t take classes at the college right out of high school.  We didn’t feel awkward or out of place.  It was very welcoming and easy to be there.”

“I was also able to make more money with my two-year associate degree than I did with my bachelor’s degree,” Biz says.

Along with Cassie, Biz has a big support group that includes her husband and her two stepdaughters.  One of her favorite things to do is travel.  “My husband and I have made traveling a priority.  If we can swing it, we do it!”

Biz and her husband have traveled all over the world.  From a trip to Iceland, to Costa Rica, and even a van trip across the United States.  She wants to make sure she sees the beauty this world has to offer.  “During the pandemic, we bought a van, picked up my parents, and began a cross-country trip,” she remembers fondly.  “We drove west for three weeks.  We hit 15 national parks.  I just loved every minute of it.”

And life is about taking in every opportunity presented to you, Biz makes sure she uses those moments to also help spread awareness of ALS.  “The drug I am on now is FDA-approved.  It is a great medicine,” she explains.  “I don’t know if it was my young age, my activity level, or the medicine but my progression is slowing.  I am still walking, talking, eating, and breathing just fine.  Which means I still have plenty of time to share awareness of this disease.”

She works very hard to raise money each year.  Biz participates in the “Walk to Defeat ALS” with her team named “We Mean Biz”.  “I started raising funds in 2021.  Last year, I was able to raise over $20,000.  Now this year I have a goal of over $30,000.”  At last check, Biz has already raised almost $24,000!

The money goes directly to patients with ALS.  “I have benefited from it every year, with grants from transportation or cleaning the house.  Fundraising is key, but so is awareness.  It is an awful disease, but there is hope.”

If you would like to help support Biz and her mission to help defeat ALS, you can go to the Columbus Walk to Defeat ALS: Elizabeth Them – The ALS Association Central & Southern Ohio Chapter.

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