While some may look at Tommy May’s battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease — as the 800-pound gorilla in the room, May himself is not afraid to look the monster in the eye.

While some may look at Tommy May’s battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease — as the 800-pound gorilla in the room, May himself is not afraid to look the monster in the eye.


May has chosen to live with the illness on his own terms.


May said that for him and for his family, it took time for the reality of the diagnosis made in 2005 to fully sink in.


"Although I knew I had a major challenge, and even after several weeks of testing, we were still shocked to learn the diagnosis was Lou Gehrig’s Disease," May said in a recent interview. "I would be less than honest if I did not say that there was great fear and trepidation by me, Kathryn and my children. It was a shock, surreal, and there was even a lot of denial.


"This was bigger than anything we had ever known, and with the help of Gordon Topping, our pastor, we turned it over to God," May said. "I like to say that we turned it over several times and took it back several times, but once we left it with the Lord our lives became much better. Thanks to Kathryn, our kids and a lot of prayer, we made the decision that we were not going to ‘wallow in self-pity’ or let the diagnosis run our lives. Instead, we live one day at a time and still try to find ways to make a difference in the lives of other ALS patients, our family, community, and my work with the Simmons First Foundation.


"There are no guarantees in life, and I have had so many blessings that we want to find ways to utilize our time, talent and resources to help others and to continue to work with our board, associates, family and friends to find support for ALS research," May said. "As I say, God has a plan. Our kids have encouraged a ‘bucket list;’ however, other than a trip someday to Maine, we have been too busy to figure out what is next, but we will.


"One of our sons has even prepared a ‘To Do List’ for me," May said. "I think Kathryn may have encouraged the latter. Seriously, while we don’t take the medical challenge lightly, we will not let it define us."


Part of May’s living the rest of his life on his own terms involves his love of the game of golf.


May has continued to play golf with the help of a specially designed cart. The cart, which has no roof, features a chair that turns 360 degrees. May, who is right-handed, swings the club with his left hand because of degeneration in his shoulder.


If you think all that slows him down, you don’t know Tommy May.


In fact, May recorded a hole in one on April 9, 2011, at Pine Bluff Country Club.


"I would have to say that it is the fellowship and the competition that appeals to me the most when it comes to golf," May said. "It might be an understatement to say that I am competitive. I’ve never been a great golfer, just like I was never a great football player. However, I always thought I was a better athlete than I was, and I constantly tried hard to prove it.


"In golf, with enough strokes I can still compete pretty well," May said. "I’ve also learned that it is important to play with people that are not a lot better than me or to make sure they work for me. That is why I play with Marty Casteel, Bob Smithey, Robert Dill, Robbie Atkinson and Jim Buckner.


"Truth be known, they all are actually better than me, but when we play by my rules, I generally win, and I love winning," May said with a characteristic twinkle in his eye.