Zac Brown Band Star John Driskell Hopkins Gives an Update on ALS Progression
John Driskell Hopkins is continuing to take things one day at a time in his battle with ALS. The Zac Brown Band guitarist is giving the public an update just over a year after revealing his diagnosis.
"I don't feel a lot different than I did last year," he tells People. "I can tell that some things are continuing to slow down. My voice is being affected, and that's something that I really notice as a singer, but I'm still playing and I'm still performing and still singing."
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative disease that gradually decreases muscle function, which could prevent Hopkins from singing and playing guitar in the future, among other declines.
The musician says he relies on his sense of humor to keep things light.
"I like to poke fun at myself," he explains. "I told our guitar player, Coy [Bowles], that I was going to come kick his a--. He was in the room down the hall and I was like, 'I'll be there in 30 minutes. Don't leave.' I love him. But it was one of those moments ... I'm really slow."
Hopkins' pace has also prevented him from executing live shows the way he wants to, by giving the audience an animated performance.
"I was never a very good dancer, so that's not a big deal. But I do miss jumping on stage and being able to run around and act a fool," he shares. "So that part, it would be lovely to get some of that back, but that's not really in the ALS cards, you don't really get things back."
"So we're trying to do everything we can to maintain and take it day by day," he adds.
Since his diagnosis, Hopkins and the band have worked to raise money to find a cure for the debilitating disease. He started the Hop on a Cure foundation to collect research funds. Recently the band raised $200,000 during a postgame Major League Baseball performance for the third annual Lou Gehrig Day. ALS is also called Lou Gehrig's disease after the legendary baseball player was diagnosed in 1939.
Hopkins says he is determined to fight ALS like a "warrior" for his daughters. He and his wife Jennifer share three daughters, Sarah Grace, 14, and twins Lily Faith and Margaret Hope, 10, and he worries about not being there for them as they grow older. In addition to recording a "voice bank" of common words to help him communicate in the future, the guitarist is also writing songs for his girls.
"I've got three that I'm working on that are all in different ways directly related to what I'm going through. I was writing a song that's simply 'I Love You Forever,'" he revealed last year, admitting, "I haven't finished it — I can't finish it."