(NC) The details of the moment Jamie Fobert found out that he had Parkinson’s disease at 40, are etched forever in his mind. “I heard the words Parkinson’s disease. I looked down at my watch; it was 10:20 a.m., June 30, 2010. I was bent over, my head down, my elbows on my knees and then it was a blur. The doctor kept talking, but I wasn’t hearing much.”
As a fit, active person, the young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) diagnosis was a shock. His eldest son first pointed out that he wasn’t swinging his right arm while playing soccer. Subsequent consultations with his family doctor and sports medicine specialists led him to that fateful appointment with the neurologist.
Fobert sobbed during the entire two-hour drive home. Over the next few days, he shared his diagnosis with his family and his employers while trying to get on with his life.
Soon after, Fobert made a life-changing connection. He met Stephanie Bruder while she was volunteering at a fundraising event for Parkinson Canada in the local drugstore. Bruder, who also has YOPD, introduced him to the local Parkinson’s community, including a support group. “She’s a small person with a giant heart,” says Fobert.
A two-hour conversation with Bruder did wonders for Fobert’s outlook. He began to understand the words: “I have Parkinson’s. It doesn’t have me.” He realized that living with Parkinson’s, he would be challenged to “step up or step aside” and he chose to step up.
Fobert continued and even increased his physical activity, playing soccer and lifting weights. He takes his medications and physician-approved supplements and monitors his diet and schedule. That’s not to say, he doesn’t slip up sometimes. “One morning I ate a breakfast bar without realizing it contained a lot of protein, which can inhibit the absorption of my medication. I was frozen at my kitchen table for quite some time, until my son came by and helped me out.”
As a career caregiver working with children and adults with developmental challenges, it didn’t take long for Fobert to seek ways to help others. “I found out I had a talent for getting others to give; if not money, then supplies for our events.” He now helps organize events for Parkinson Canada and speaks to media and the public about living with the disease. He also recently became a partner for the charity’s Life Lists Challenge, inspiring others to raise funds while they undertake rewarding bucket list activities like skydiving or ziplining.
“I believe I have a responsibility to live every day to the fullest, and to not take anything for granted,” says Fobert. “A cure for Parkinson’s isn’t just going to happen, we need to go after it.”