On a warm spring day in Boise, Idaho, friends Pam and Cindy slowly make their way down the sidewalk to a neighborhood park. Dips and cracks in the sidewalk make the way slow-going, because Cindy is pushing Pam in a wheelchair towards the park where they sometimes make treks together to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. Pam has Huntington’s Disease, and her ability to walk on her own and keep her balance has diminished over the past several years. That doesn’t stop her friend Cindy from taking her out when she can, especially to the HDSA Southern Idaho Affiliate support group, where both women have become treasured friends of the local HD community.
Pam and Cindy met in the late 90’s at Peterson Motors. Cindy was already working for the dealership when Pam was hired on to help manage accounts payable. Pam sat behind Cindy, and it didn’t take long for them to become friends. What drew Cindy to Pam? “I liked Pam’s work ethic. She was responsible and accountable, and a really good person to work with.”
Their friendship blossomed over “Taco Tuesday” at a local establishment that a few people from the dealership would frequent. The dedicated Taco Tuesday group also included Tom, Pam’s husband, who was diagnosed with MS. As his dedicated caregiver, Pam would go home every day to ensure Tom had lunch, so naturally he was included in the Taco Tuesday crew. Tom was known for his warmth and humor. According to Cindy, he always had a mischievous smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. His signature phrase was “Glad you got to see me”.
During those days at Peterson Motors, Pam started to experience symptoms of HD, and was diagnosed in 2006. She chose to withhold this information from her co-workers, but already knowing that Pam’s mom had HD, her co-workers started to recognize the symptoms in Pam. This worried Cindy. Here Pam was, caregiving for her husband with MS, and she was starting to experience symptoms of her own. Pam’s sister was also diagnosed with HD, as well as her son that lived locally. As Cindy put it, Pam was “the glue” that held everyone together. This familial disease was making it increasingly hard to make sure that everyone was taken care of.
Pam’s husband Tom passed away in 2010, and at that point Pam’s son, also diagnosed with HD, moved in with Pam to be her caregiver. As many caregivers to people with HD can attest to, the symptoms soon became overwhelming and it was clear that Pam needed to be in a facility with around the clock care. Pam’s son turned to the support group, and found a resource in group member Dottie. She helped get Pam into a great memory care facility.
These days Pam lives at a quaint memory care facility in the Northend of Boise that provides just the atmosphere she needs. She appreciates the amenities they offer, and the people she lives with. But one of the things she appreciates most is her friendship with Cindy. When asked what she likes about Cindy, with tears streaming down her face she exclaims “I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate her friendship!”
People with HD know how hard it can be to watch someone suffer with this disease, and unfortunately it can sometimes be too much for a person to bare. Relationships can be damaged, and friendships lost. But when friendship is based in strong love there isn’t a thing that can destroy it, and the relationship between Pam and Cindy is a testament to that. Like we are with everyone in the HD community, we are grateful and honored to call them our friends.