Readers voted for the health bloggers who inspire them live a stronger, healthier life as part of our annual Best Health Blog contest, and the results are in!

Dagmar Munn, author of the ALS and Wellness Blog, came in joint 1st Place! She wins $1,000, and we are hugely inspired by her decision to donate the prize money to the ALS Association.

Read on to learn about Munn’s journey with ALS and why her blog is so important to her and the ALS community at large.

When Dagmar Munn was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2010, she tapped into her nearly 30 years of professional experience helping others reach and achieve their health goals.

In 1996, she was part of a team that created the Center for Health & Well-Being at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa — the first hospital-based complementary and alternative medicine therapy center in the state. As the center’s director, Munn taught classes and educated patients, hospital staff, and the community on the topic of wellness.

She also practiced an active lifestyle. Munn grew up competing in gymnastics and went on to obtain a master’s degree in dance. (Fun fact: Her father, George Nissen, invented the modern trampoline, similar to what is used in the Olympics today.)

When Munn learned she had ALS, “the challenge for me became one of how to apply all those wellness and movement experiences to my new situation. You could say I became my own special class of one,” she blogged.

But the diagnosis of ALS didn’t keep Munn from continuing to inspire and teach others. She posted her first blog entry in January 2015, and become a major change maker in the online ALS community.

We spoke to her about her blog and living ALS.

What would you say is the mission of your blog?

Dagmar Munn: “To share wellness and motivation for persons living with ALS, motor neuron disease (MND), and their caregivers, family, and friends. Because you can be well while living with ALS.”

What motivated you to start the blog?

DM: “Once I was diagnosed with ALS, I began following the very same wellness and movement principles I taught to others years earlier. By the end of four years, I found I had pieced together a formula that helped me live a balanced life while living with ALS.

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“During those first four years, I couldn’t find any other blogs or websites offering motivation and wellness information specific to ALS. So, I decided to fill the gap and begin sharing my thoughts and experiences with others through my own blog.”

Was it difficult to be so open about your ALS at first? How did you overcome that?

DM: “Yes. I think it is that way for most everyone with ALS. In a matter of months, we all move from having active lives to experiencing a variety of disabling symptoms. ALS is confusing to those who have it as well as those who don’t. It was a challenge explaining it to others when I couldn’t even grasp the whole definition myself.” 

“[I overcame this] by learning as much as I could about the disease: the research, the medical leaders, and making connections via Facebook with other ALS patients around the world. I gained confidence in myself and was no longer intimidated by the disease.”

Has blogging empowered you?

DM: “Yes. The positive feedback I receive from my blog readers gives me confirmation that I am on the right track with my belief in applying wellness principles to living with ALS. In addition, I am proud to know I am contributing information of value to the ALS community.”

When did you first notice that your posts were really resonating with people?

DM: “When my own physician and the team at the Tucson ALS Clinic where I go told me they were recommending my blog to other patients at the clinic. And when people who didn’t even have ALS wrote to tell me that they found my blog posts helpful to their lives as well.”

Who has your blog connected you to whom you wouldn’t have been able to approach otherwise?

DM: “Through my blog I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to make friends with other ALS patients from literally around the world. I’ve also had the unique experience of being a ‘virtual speaker’ all the way from Arizona for an online ALS support group in Minnesota. In addition, I was invited to collaborate with several medical ALS professionals to create presentations for recent national and international conferences on ALS.”

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Has blogging changed the way you look at or approach your ALS?

DM: “It’s a never-ending circle. I follow my own advice and write about what I’m doing.”

What would you change about the way ALS is talked about?

DM: “There exists a huge focus on the physical symptoms of ALS, resulting in new technologies that help patients cope with those symptoms. But because every diagnosis includes the statement, ‘life expectancy of two to five years,’ causing many patients to needlessly lose hope, withdraw, and give up, I would like to see more emphasis in supporting the area of psychological well-being for patients, their caregivers, and family members.”

What’s your favorite thing about blogging?

DM: “Making people laugh. My serious posts are grounded in research and offer helpful advice and tips, but my humorous posts are just that; for the joy and health of laughing.”

Why is humor so important to you?

DM: “Having a sense of humor and viewing life from a different perspective is an important part of our well-being. I enjoy sharing crazy-zany moments that happen to me so that others can relate and feel better about their lives. In a little twist on my mission statement, ‘You can be well while living with ALS’ — We still can laugh while living with ALS!”