WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sharing a story is routine for Astros reliever Joe Smith and his wife, Allie LaForce. Smith regularly fulfills interview requests during his season — after outings both good and bad — while LaForce crosses the country as a NBA sideline reporter for Turner Sports.
The couple’s decision earlier this month to reveal a more personal tale may not have been as standard. In a story first published by the New York Post and re-told on the Today Show last week, Smith and LaForce disclosed their journey to in-vitro fertilization while battling an incurable disease.
Smith’s 61-year-old mother, Lee, has Huntington’s disease. It’s a neurodegenerative disorder which affects more than 30,000 Americans. Doctors describe the disease, which has no cure, as a mix between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Smith’s maternal grandmother died of Huntington’s, too.
Sports couple turns to IVF amid concerns of Huntington’s disease
Feb. 11, 201904:06
The disease is hereditary, meaning Smith, 34, has a 50 percent chance of also having it. Smith has opted not to get tested for the disease. If he does have it, the sidearming reliever will pass those same 50 percent odds along to any children he and LaForce may have.
In attempts to eradicate the disease from their family, Smith and LaForce are embarking on a form of in-vitro fertilization called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Essentially, it will ensure only embryos without Huntington’s disease will be implanted inside LaForce.
“We’re going through it and it is a very private thing, but we just want this disease gone, man,” Smith said Saturday. “Someone has to step up and talk about it and if it’s me, if that’s why I’m here, then that’s why I’m here.”
Steady public reaction — both for and against the couple’s decision — has flowed since the news went public.
Smith called the Astros “so supportive” of both their plight and the couple’s charity — the HelpCureHD Foundation — which offers financial, emotional and mental support to those suffering from the disease. Part of that, Smith says, could be funds for families to undergo the same fertilization journey he and LaForce currently face.
“There’s been some really interesting stories; some people have the same story and we’ve gotten some others that aren’t on board with this,” Smith said. “And I understand their position on it. But we’re just trying to provide a option to get rid of something, whether you believe in it or don’t believe in it, that’s your choice. I’m not trying to force it on anybody, we just want more options to get this out of your family.”