Beloved Channel 3 anchor Bill Markham battles ALS
We need to share a very personal story about a long-time and very dear co-worker here at Channel 3.
Bill Markham is dealing with ALS, known to many as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and he and his family wanted me to share the news of their journey with you.
Bill was on the air with us for more than 25 years. He anchored the news on Channel 3 from 1983 to 2009.
Not long after he left, he and his wife, Gail, moved to Florida to enjoy their retirement, but a few years ago, he noticed something different was happening.
His daughter, Mandy, spoke to me for the family. She remembers his concerns a while back.
"But he told me four years ago. He could see words and know what they were but he couldn't form the words," Mandy said. "Obviously, that's very concerning if you're trying to do voice overs and wanting to be involved in broadcasting in some way even after you're retired."
Mandy says that was the beginning of knowing things weren't right.
"When I look back, I can see a lot of clues, and it doesn't seem as fast, but when I'm faced with the reality of it now, it just seems like I haven't had enough time with him at all," Mandy added.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability to control muscle movement is lost. There is no cure, and no effective treatment.
Patients know what they face.
"They die either from malnutrition, not utilizing a feeding tube or can't swallow food any longer, or they go into respiratory failure," Pat Flowers, with the ALS Association, explained.
Flowers spends a lot of time with patients and is amazed by their desire to change the course of the disease for others.
"They want to do something for the guy that's behind them," Flowers said. "They understand. They grieved their diagnosis when it happened. Now, they are moving towards how can I help someone else that might have a better quality of life than I did.
Bill and his family wanted us to share his story for that very reason.
"And that's really their goal, their mission as they get towards the end of their life," Pat added. "So I think Bill is spot on like so many of my other clients."
"He is handling this better than any of us are," Mandy said. He has had a real positive outlook and said numerous times what a great life he has had, and a big part of that great life was in Chattanooga."
Here's what he wanted Mandy to share with us:
"He said we lived in Chattanooga 30 years, and those years were the best of my life. He really, really loved Chattanooga and loved the people there. I'm feeling so fortunate to have been a part of his life and to be loved by him because he has this amazing ability to shower the people he loves and demonstrate that in a lot of really neat ways.
Bill is in Hospice care now with his family in Alabama.
We know many of you would like to send a message or even make a donation in Bill's name to help find a cure for ALS.
A special website where you can do both of those things has been created in Bill's honor.