All 4MOM: Braden Bishop
Contributor / Will Stone
Braden Bishop was normal. Like most 13-year-old boys, his main focuses were living day-to-day life, going to school, and playing baseball. But life wouldn’t stay that way. The change started when his mother, Suzy, began to have headaches.
“She started getting migraines, like really, really bad migraines when I was in middle school and into high school,” Bishop said.
During the later part of those years, the migraines began to worsen, taking her out for two or three days at a time. She’d be sick for days, unable to get up, which was an anomaly from the active lifestyle she’d had all the way since her days of running in college at UCLA.
In 2013, the doctors began to intensely run tests, checking for everything as Bishop recalls. “CT scans, X-rays, you name it, she got it, and they still didn’t know what the problem was at that point,” he said.
“I remember when I was getting into high school and she was having migraines, she would tell my dad, ‘Something’s wrong with me, I don’t know what it is. I don’t think I’m sick in the short-term, I feel like this is something long-term,’” he said.
Both the doctors and family tried reassuring her that it was just migraines — that at some point they’d stop and things would improve.
But that wasn’t the case.
In the summer of 2014, Suzy Bishop was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
At the time, Braden was entering his third season at the University of Washington – the school he chose with his mother’s guidance. Even with the migraines, she was actively involved in the recruiting process, going on visits, and hosting the coaches in-home.
“When I was going through the whole recruitment process in high school and trying to pick a school, I obviously didn’t know that she had Alzheimer’s at the time, and honestly, if I would have known that, I probably wouldn’t have left the state. I probably would have stayed close to home,” he said.
But Braden Bishop’s story is not about what-if’s. His story is about making the best out of the hand you’re dealt.
Bishop debated his next steps. Quitting baseball and going home to be with his mom was an option. “Baseball isn’t that important when it comes to the magnitude of the situation,” he said were his thoughts.
“The diagnosis definitely knocked me down, it knocked my whole family down. We knew that this thing doesn’t have a cure, that it’s only downhill, but I kept thinking about what we could do to stop the ball from rolling downhill so fast.” he said. “I came back to: the more positive I can be, the more I can see the light through all this darkness. I decided that’s what was going to slow this ball.”
Part of that positivity led Bishop and his strength coach at the University of Washington, Dave Rak, to team up. As one of Bishop’s closest friends, Rak listened to him and suggested they do something to be proactive.
So they held a weightlifting competition, in Suzy Bishop’s honor, with all the money raised going to Alzheimer’s research. There was a $20 entry fee and a $5 viewing fee. It was a start, and Suzy got to be there for it.
“That was the moment for me. If I can show her that she can embrace this, that she doesn’t have to be embarrassed, then that’s how we’re going to take that next step,” he said.
One of those next steps was taking the one-time weightlifting competition and turning the thought behind it into something bigger.
That was when Bishop’s charity foundation “4MOM” was born, created to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and to help people currently living with the disease. The first event for the foundation was a baseball game between Bishop’s University of Washington team and the University of Arizona on Mother’s Day in 2015. The game was not only in support of Bishop’s mother, but all the players’ mothers who have gone through or are going through adversity.
That was the first of the 4MOM-labeled events. While the positivity and embracing of the diagnosis was evident, as it goes with Alzheimer’s, no matter how much positivity you muster, the disease will advance — a reality that Bishop and his family have had to face.
“Where she is today, you can barely have a conversation, so you have to be super patient, super understanding,” he said.
To make things even more challenging, Bishop’s baseball career is becoming more demanding. After being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2015, he has begun his trek through their minor league system with each step up taking him away from his mom for longer periods of time.
As a result of the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s, her condition could deteriorate in the months he’s gone to the point that when he returns, she isn’t the same person she was the last time he saw her.
“That’s, at this point, probably the hardest part for me, because you see her at a certain stage, then you leave, and it gets worse. Luckily, I have my dad and my brother who are around so they can keep me updated on how it’s going and what to expect when I come back,” he said. “It is pretty dark to know that when you leave it’s going to get worse.”
But the darkness isn’t what Bishop is dwelling on, and with 4MOM and his baseball career both growing, it isn’t hard to find some of the positive.
His foundation now has a new partner in Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles, an organization that provides care and support for families suffering from Alzheimer’s. As they help to run Bishop’s foundation, Bishop has more time to spend with his mother and his baseball career — a career that is trending upward.
In 2017 in the Double-A league, Bishop slashed .336/.417/.448 batting averages. While his goal is to reach the majors, it’s not because of the paycheck. His eyes are on the elevated platform he’ll gain to help his cause.
While his baseball journey continues, Bishop’s focus stays on raising awareness for Alzheimer’s, and he remains grateful for the opportunities he’s been given and the lessons he’s learned through his mother’s sickness.