Lonnie Ali, wife of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, is not only married to a champion—she's a champion in her own right as part of the Fight for MORE campaign, whose purpose is to help Parkinson's disease patients and the millions of people who care for them. Gayle talks to Lonnie about being a caregiver to Muhammad and her work to educate and empower others living with Parkinson's.
It has been more than 20 years since Muhammad was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs motor skills and speech. Although there is no cure, Lonnie says she wants to convey the message that it is a manageable disease. "Engage them, keep active, keep your life going," she says. "There's no reason to let this disease define who you are."
As those living with Parkinson's know, the disease affects not only the person afflicted with the condition but also their family, friends and caregivers, Lonnie says. She adds that the Fight for MORE campaign's mission is to provide support, educational tools and resources for the caregivers, who often lack a community of support or the knowledge they need to administer the best care possible. "It's all about empowering the caregiver to do the best job that they can do for that patient," she says.
Lonnie says the disease hasn't affected Muhammad's emotions, reasoning or thinking, although it has impaired his ability to walk and speak. She says they both remain positive and focused on what he can do, rather than his limitations. "I have never in my life heard Muhammad talk about regrets, 'Why me, why did I ever get this disease?'" she says.
Their strong relationship and faith enable the couple to keep up the fight, Lonnie says. "I have that history with Muhammad, and I know the valuable contribution he has made to the world and the contribution he has left to give," she says.