Jamie Fobert, then 40 years young, sobbed during the entire two-hour drive home from the neurologist appointment to his home in Belleville, Ontario. Over the next few days, he shared his diagnosis with his family and his employers while trying to just get on with his life.
Over the next few years, he would redesign his life.
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.
“I heard the words Parkinson’s disease. I looked down at my watch; it was 10:20 a.m., June 30, 2010. The doctor was wearing a dark dress shirt and khakis. 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.”
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 young-onset Parkinson’s disease (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 and Robert Brown, another local man living with Parkinson’s, 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 new breakfast cereal without realizing it contained a lot of protein, which can inhibit the absorption of my medication. I was frozen at the kitchen table for quite some time until my youngest son came by and helped me out.”
Fobert also made some tough decisions in his personal life. He met his new wife Beverly. “It’s so much easier to live with Parkinson’s when you are supported by people who love you. I’m very lucky to have that,” says Jamie.
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. Fobert helps organize events for Parkinson Canada and speaks to media and the public about living with the disease.
Fobert writes about his Superman tattoo as his “inner strength symbol,” explaining that most days Superman is simply Clark Kent, but Superman appears when extraordinary strength is needed. “And some days I need that inner strength when living with Parkinson’s.”
A lot has happened in the 10 years since his diagnosis. In February, he underwent successful Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, which greatly improved the quality of his life. He needs about a fifth of the medication that he started with. He can drive again. He can now hold a pen again. He can even do some housework—which makes his wife very happy.
Through good days and bad days, he watched his kids grow into happy, productive adults and he became a grandfather.
“Some dates are etched permanently in my memory. I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s; the day I married Bev; and the day I had my DBS surgery. ‘
Parkinson Canada Research Program funds leading edge research into therapies that improve the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s. Since 1981, 557 projects have been funded, for over $30 million. For more information on our Research Program—https://www.parkinson.ca/research/impact-results/
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