EDITOR’S NOTE — April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.
When Katie Fordham was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2019, it was a relief.
At last, she knew why she was often fatigued and experienced depression, emotional changes and physical issues not usually related to someone as young as 36. It took months of doctor visits and testing to get a diagnosis.
Fordham, wife of Sam Fordham, pastor of Oak Bowery Baptist Church in Ohatchee, said people had begun to notice her tremors, and her three children realized “momma didn’t act the same.” She also couldn’t do some of the things she was accustomed to in the church where her husband had served since 2014.
Realizing there currently is no cure for Parkinson’s, the only hope is in Jesus, Fordham said: “I pray that Jesus will impart to doctors the knowledge of how best to treat me and others.”
She said she made a choice following her diagnosis — she could withdraw and shut others out, or she could become an advocate for Parkinson’s. Fortunately for others and their caregivers, she chose the latter.
Sharing with others
Fordham takes several approaches to sharing her experience. Her husband developed a YouTube Video, YouTube.com/c/Kamping with Katie, which helps children understand why mommy has bad days, why she’s often tired and what the tremors mean.
The Fordhams’ three children, ages 14, 12 and eight, have definitely been impacted by the condition, especially the oldest.
“Two brain surgeries in less than two years has been difficult,” Fordham said. “But they get to see blessings of me being better.
“Not only has it been a learning experience for our family,” Fordham said. “But for our precious church. Oak Bowery Baptist runs about 80 in worship services. These sweet people have prayed over me and supported our family in so many ways. The church family fed us for three weeks after my last surgery.
“It’s a blessing to be part of a church community. We had to walk the grief with our congregation before we could grieve ourselves.
‘Power in knowledge’
“God made me a teacher,” Fordham, a third-generation educator, said. “There is power in knowledge. What good is it if I don’t share my journey with others?
“My prayer has been that God will receive the glory. If just one person comes to know Him, it will be worth it.”
Fordham keeps a printed supply of the e-book, “Every Victory Counts,” distributing them to new patients, along with a caregiver’s guide.
After being diagnosed Fordham asked, “Why me?” she said. “I have three children to raise. I’m a pastor’s wife.” She later came to realize, “Why not me?”
By being an advocate for Parkinson’s in Alabama, Fordham speaks at conferences and provides education about the condition. But more importantly, she shares that God has a plan for each life.
Suggestions for coping with Parkinson’s
Being diagnosed at an early age, Fordham understands the stress that accompanies Parkinson’s disease and offers suggestions:
Don’t ever give up. This is not the end of the road, just a difficult path.
Find a Parkinson’s specialist.
Exercise daily, the only proven activity to slow Parkinson’s.
Data on Parkinson’s disease
April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day.
Parkinson’s affects an estimated 1 million Americans, with 60,000 diagnosed annually.
Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurological disease in the world.
There are more people with Parkinson’s than ALS, MS and Muscular Dystrophy combined.
For More Information:
These groups provide vital information for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or caregivers:
Parkinson’s Association of Alabama
Annual symposium — May 14, Barber Motorsports in Leeds
Davis Phinney Foundation/Every Victory Counts Manual