If 29-year-old Rob Roozeboom could bottle and sell his optimism, he’d be a billionaire. But he hasn’t always been optimistic.

“I was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy at age 5,” he said recently in a telephone interview. “As you look into starting a family, this type of muscular dystrophy is easy to pass on genetically to your children. When Sharla and I married nine years ago, our dream was to have kids. But a person with this disease wouldn’t knowingly pass it on to their children.”

The Roozebooms’ outlook on having children improved five years ago when doctors re-diagnosed Rob with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a type that is not passed on genetically. So the Roosebooms began having children and now have two.

Muscular dystrophy is a neuromuscular disease often affecting children and young adults, about one million Americans total. Roozeboom has one of nine known forms. “Limb-girdle” muscular dystrophy affects the use of his bicep, shoulder, stomach, pelvic and thigh muscles. It can lead to heart and respiratory problems, and in advanced stages to wheelchair use. It won’t affect his mind or senses and shouldn’t shorten his life span.

Until he met Sharla, the woman that would become his wife, “I believed what society was telling me,” he said, “that if I was different, I was a nothing. I believed that if you didn’t walk right, look right or play athletics nobody would ever love you. I felt like I was a nothing.”

One day Sharla said, “It doesn’t matter what you can do. What truly matters is who you are on the inside.” Her words really hit home.

Today, Roozeboom doesn’t climb stairs and can’t easily get out of a chair. Yet he is one of the more optimistic people this columnist has interviewed. For one, Roozeboom has founded Rise Ministries, through which he speaks to business, church and civic groups about overcoming adversity.

He twice has appeared on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, and in an official capacity speaks for MDA at numerous events.

Years ago he lived a defeated and broken life. Now he has faith and hope, and has become a husband and father of two children. As for the latter, “That re-diagnosis was unbelievable,” he said. “I count being a dad and husband as two of the greatest honors in the world.”

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