ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Nearly four years after Broncos owner Pat Bowlen announced he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, his wife Annabel announced Wednesday that she too is battling the progressive brain disease.
“I recently learned that I’ve joined my husband Pat and the millions of others who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,’’ she said in a statement released by the team.
“Since Pat’s diagnosis, I have gained a vivid understanding of this disease’s progression and its effect on those living with it as well as their families. My family and I have been -- and will remain -- dedicated supporters of Alzheimer’s awareness, treatment and research funding.
“I decided to make my diagnosis public right away in the hope that it continues to raise awareness for those battling Alzheimer’s and their loved ones."
The Broncos have been in a trust since Pat Bowlen relinquished control of the team to battle the disease just before training camp opened in July 2014.
Team president and CEO Joe Ellis runs the team, which has been owned by Bowlen since 1984.
“Our hearts go out to Annabel and the entire Bowlen family," Ellis said in a statement. "She's been a wonderful ambassador and advocate for the Broncos over the years, especially in recent seasons as Pat has focused on his own battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"All of us at the Broncos are behind Annabel and know she'll face this challenge with courage and determination."
The Broncos have been to seven Super Bowls and won three championships during Bowlen's tenure as owner.
Pat Bowlen's long-term goal has been to have one of his seven children to run the team when they're ready.
One of his daughters, Beth Bowlen Wallace, announced last month her desire to take over the team, but the Broncos said in a statement she "is not capable or qualified at this time."
Full statement from Annabel Bowlen:
"I recently learned that I've joined my husband Pat and the millions of others who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
“Since Pat's diagnosis, I have gained a vivid understanding of this disease’s progression and its effect on those living with it as well as their families. My family and I have been — and will remain — dedicated supporters of Alzheimer's awareness, treatment and research funding.
"I decided to make my diagnosis public right away in the hope that it continues to raise awareness for those battling Alzheimer's and their loved ones. With June also being Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month, the timing was right for me to share this personal update with everyone.
"I feel that it is important for people to know that those in my situation do not need to completely withdraw from their daily activities. Based on my own experience with Pat, there will still be many joyous and rewarding moments for me as well as my family and friends.
"I intend to proceed in life with the same strength, courage and endurance that Pat has shown in his battle with this disease. Like Pat, I know there will be good days and bad days ahead. I'm grateful to have the support of my family and especially my children — Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna.
"It's my hope to remain involved in various Alzheimer's events as my health allows. And of course, I'll be cheering on our Broncos.
"Most importantly, thank you to all of our incredible fans for the compassion and support you've given to me, Pat and our entire family."
Statement from Annabel Bowlen's five children (Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna):
“We are fully supportive of our mother and will face her Alzheimer’s diagnosis together as a family.
“During the last few years, all of us have been inspired by the strength and courage our mother has shown as she’s supported our father in his own battle with Alzheimer’s disease. We’re confident that she will bring the same grace, compassion and determination to her fight.
“In addition to being a loving mother, she has always found ways to positively impact our community. By publicly announcing her illness, we are reminded again of our mother’s commitment to raising awareness and empowering those living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“We’ll continue to support our parents, stay strong as a family and do our part to raise awareness for everyone affected by Alzheimer’s disease.”
Statement from Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis:
“Our hearts go out to Annabel and the entire Bowlen family. She's been a wonderful ambassador and advocate for the Broncos over the years, especially in recent seasons as Pat has focused on his own battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"All of us at the Broncos are behind Annabel and know she'll face this challenge with courage and determination.
“Our support extends not only to Annabel and Pat, but also to their children. While having both parents diagnosed with Alzheimer's is daunting, they’ve already demonstrated such strength and compassion in their roles as caregivers.
“We commend Annabel for her brave public announcement and look forward to increasing our involvement in the Alzheimer’s community.”
Amelia Schafer, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter, said the Bowlens are raising awareness about the disease.
She said there are 71,000 Coloradans living with Alzheimer’s, but many people don’t know the signs.
“Many people know memory is an issue with Alzheimer’s, but they don’t think about the personality or the mood,” Schafer said.
The Alzheimer’s Association said these are 10 early signs and symptoms of the disease. If you have any, you should contact your doctor for guidance.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life-challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
For help, call the Alzheimer’s Association helpline at 800-272-3900, or visit the organization's website.