Why I Walk: Pam’s Story

Facing stigma is often a primary concern of people living with Alzheimer’s and their care partners. Those with the disease report being misunderstood because of the myths and misconceptions others have about the disease. A local woman and her husband are working hard to change that by helping educate people about the disease. Pam Montana has inspired thousands and become a beacon of strength by speaking publicly about her experience with early onset Alzheimer’s. Read her story below.

photoI was diagnosed with Early Stage Early Onset Alzheimer’s on July 20, 2016. My kids and my husband were with me in the room as 15 research physicians and interns shared the news. The pictures of my CT/PET and MRI are forever in my brain.

When I saw all the red on the slide, I knew I had Alzheimer’s disease. It was not a great moment but in some ways I felt validated. I KNEW something was wrong and almost everyone kept saying my symptoms were ‘normal’.

But it’s not normal for a 58-year-old to repeat herself, or to struggle with learning new things, to forget conversations so much so that my role managing a sales team at Intel Corporation became such a huge burden.

I am now 61 and for the past two and a half months I’ve been focused on raising money and awareness of this horrible disease. My husband and I had the pleasure of flying up to Portland OR to walk on a team that was formed by my staff at Intel. What an honor it was to be there with them, and to say goodbye.

I am no longer able to work and on short term medical leave, which will turn into a long term leave in May of 2017. I will stay on long term leave until I am 65 and then I will retire. Who knows what will happen with Social Security and all that. At this point I’m taking things one day at a time and living in the moment.

Last Saturday we walked in the Walnut Creek, CA Alzheimer’s walk and I was in stage at the ‘blue flower’ ceremony. Wow – that was emotional. As I looked out I saw my oldest daughter sobbing hysterically. My heart was broken but I also realized that she needed to get out her feelings.

pamI had over 30 family and friends walk with me and overall it was a wonderful day. The emotions of being on stage and raising my blue flower must have been strong because I have a huge cold sore on my lip! I guess your body responds when you go through stress even though your mind may be calm.

The Walnut Creek walk was special for me because I raised over $16,000 and was the top fundraiser for the event. My friends at Intel all came through, as well as some unexpected donations from people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 10 years. God is good and he is using me to raise awareness–and I am so happy that this is my new job.

We walked in Chico, CA on Saturday and my next blog will be about my experience as the ‘Early stage Alzheimer’s’ speaker. Thank you in advance for your support.

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