Rare disease gives Keizer man new lease on life

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Since suffering a stoke as the result of a rare hereditary brain disorder last July, Don Whitehouse has made it his mission to spread the word about the benefits of good health and exercise. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Since suffering a stoke as the result of a rare hereditary brain disorder last July, Don Whitehouse has made it his mission to spread the word about the benefits of good health and exercise. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For Don Whitehouse, riding his bike is like going to church.

“I’m by myself and I’m talking to God and just amazed by the glory of things,” he said.

He always enjoyed riding and racing bikes as a kid, but it wasn’t until he had a stroke last July that he rekindled his passion for pedaling.

Whitehouse has a rare disease called cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy, or CADASIL. The hereditary disease strikes about one in every 24,000 people, but its actual numbers are unknown because its symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis. The symptoms include migraines, mood disorders, cognitive difficulties, dementia and strokes of varying severity.

Whitehouse, 43, first started noticing the signs of the disease about seven years ago. He had intense migraines followed by transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or mild strokes.


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