Celebrating My Worst Day: Year 10

On September 4th, 2013 I underwent an MRI that revealed I have acute cerebellar atrophy.

An incurable, progressive brain disease that, well, isn’t terribly fun.

A few years ago (after I matured a little), instead of dreading my worst day (because I concluded that it was going to arrive no matter how I felt), I started embracing my worst day. Accepting it. Celebrating it.

Now, on my worst day, I bake a cake, exercise, play my favorite songs on repeat, read passages from my books, reflect, eat cake, say a few mushy things, and hug my kids and wife.

Like a birthday, your worst day is a fine day to reflect and be thankful you’re alive. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of my diagnosis. Is 10 years of living with an illness an accomplishment? A milestone? Should a buy myself a watch? A diamond? A stainless steel steak knife? 

Ancient Greek philosopher Seneca once said, “… it’s unfortunate that some people have never lived through misfortune.”

I believe all of us would take a little less misfortune in our lives however, I do understand what Seneca was saying.

I mean, this came from a man who was imprisoned, exiled, and ultimately ordered by Roman Emperor Nero to commit suicide. 

With all of its immediate pain and discomfort, misfortune offers us the perspective and insight we need to grow. It also makes us realize—rather surprisingly—we’re more adaptable, more resilient than we once thought. Our gift is our growth.

When we suffer misfortune, time does something funny. It moves both whiplash fast or painfully slow. As if time is a teenager and can’t make up its mind. No matter the pace, it’s difficult, almost impossible, to maintain balance in the present state of misfortune. We either project too far in the future or reminisce too much about the past.

However, I now know that being patient, finding balance (literally and figuratively) in the present, celebrating just today and all that is happening right now, by taking life one step at a time, is how I’ve survived the last 10 years.

Scenes from my worst day:

Below is one of my favorite pictures ever. My friend Deb Dauer sent this to me in September of 2017 after reading how I celebrate my worst day. Rest easy my friend.

And so to celebrate, my 10 year diagnosis-versary (September 4), International Ataxia Awareness Day (September 25), the release of my new book Ordinary Hero (November 1), and The National Ataxia Foundation’s upcoming “Hike for Mike” event, I’m participating in an exclusive NAF fundraising campaign.

My goal is to increase Ataxia awareness and raise $5,000 to accelerate finding a cure for Ataxia.

Upon making a donation, you will receive two chapters from my upcoming book Ordinary Hero, which is set to be released on November 1, 2023. Using my misfortune I explore, like a suburban Seneca, the age-old question, “Does adversity build character?” It’s a book that brings comfort, insight, and might just change your perspective on misfortune.  

To learn more about the campaign and help cure Ataxia click here!

Be well,


Greetings to everyone who found me on the University of Pennsylvania’s Ataxia Clinic’s website! Thanks for stopping by. I have ataxia and though I’m not a doctor, I hope my words comfort, encourage, empower, and serve as good company on your journey.

Arriving Gracefully on 11/1/23!

September Book Promos for You:

Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?

This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors in two awesome book promotions. Click the link below:

New: Become Inspired. Become You
New: Free Non-Fiction

NEW: Memoirs, Biographies, Self-Help Books and More!

Buy Here!

Recent letters you may enjoy:

Celebrate the Little Steps

Life is Change

Adversity Also Builds This


Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life.

For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com

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