How Faith and Prayer Help My Sister Cope With Parkinson’s

Jo Gambosi avatar

by Jo Gambosi |

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My sister Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), is a devout member of the Catholic faith. She clings to her beliefs and says, “Prayer and my faith have helped sustain me when dealing with my PD diagnosis and other medical issues that I’ve had in the past.”

PD is not the only challenge that Bev has confronted. In 2005, she had a heart bypass and mitral valve replacement surgery. In 2014, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, had surgery, and received chemotherapy. She is a seven-year cancer survivor! 

A review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings notes that, “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide.” 

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Feeding Our Faith, Not Our Fears

Every morning and evening, my sister’s routine is to spend time in prayer, then watch some religious programs on television. She attends church when she is able to engage in fellowship with others.

In article published in Neurology, researchers investigate how faith and spirituality are affected by PD. They found that patients generally maintain their faith or spirituality, regardless of disease severity. Also, their involvement in a religious community and attendance at places of worship did not decrease, despite their disability.

Although my sister’s faith is strong, I’m sure that Bev must feel like her body is betraying her, given her current cognitive, balance, and walking issues. She has expressed to me that she sometimes feels out of control. Bev told me one day, “I used to be able to [perform] echocardiograms, but now I have trouble remembering appointments!” 

Brad Dell, director of columns for BioNews (the parent company of this website), wrote a column for Cystic Fibrosis News Today about his experience with faith while dealing with chronic illness and loss of control. He said, “When I felt small and thrown to the unpredictable winds, I desperately clawed for any semblance of control and yearned for spiritual answers as to why all things hurt. It’s hard not to consider questions of purpose when your own body tries to murder you.”

Faith and spirituality may reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression, and offer hope and a sense of purpose to those with chronic illnesses like PD.

A study published in SAGE Journals notes that, “Religious involvement appears to enable the sick, particularly those with serious and disabling medical illness, to cope better and experience psychological growth from their negative health experiences, rather than be defeated or overcome by them.”

Many people of faith are comforted by the belief in a greater power, which can in turn encourage them to use their gifts and abilities for a greater purpose.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Mr. Bradley avatar

Mr. Bradley

The importance of faith cannot be overestimated in dealing with PD. As a fellow Catholic, we learn much about the value of redemptive suffering in our catechism.
It goes back to the most basic question----what does God want from us? God made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.
Which means we were not made in order to just make money or have fun and goof off. We were given life to know God and to know what He wants us to do.
Nothing happens to us in this life that is not ultimately for our own good, as God is always trying to draw us closer to Him. Sometimes that involves pain and suffering from illness.
Rather than ask "why me?", I say "oh, this is the road that is going to get me closer to God." It's the road less traveled, for sure, but I know I'm right where God wants me. May we all be good witnesses on our journey.


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