The Faith to Weather Life's Storms

The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore has had his share of struggles throughout his life. But he has always managed to ride out the tempests.

By Jim Cantore, Atlanta, Georgia

As appeared in

Let's face it. I'm what you might call a weather geek. I am very passionate about the weather. Growing up in White River Junction, Vermont, I'd often get calls from my schoolmates for weather forecasts. "Hey, Jim, it's supposed to snow. Are we gonna have school tomorrow?"

I would think, If only I could make a living spending all of my time studying the weather—what a dream that would be.

"You can, Jim," my dad encouraged me, and then gave me the best advice of my life. "People always want to know what the weather is going to be. You can be the guy to tell them."

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The fact is everyone worries about the weather. As long as humans have been on this earth we've been trying to predict it and, of course, control it.

We've gotten pretty good too. The predicting part, that is. But it's not perfect. Life's a little like that sometimes. Things don't always turn out the way we predict.

I landed my dream job right out of college—working for The Weather Channel (TWC), a burgeoning cable network out of Atlanta, Georgia. That's where I met two people who would have a huge influence on my life: my mentor and friend, the late John Hope, and my wife-to-be, Tamra.

John was our hurricane expert for many years and the face of The Weather Channel. He was also everybody's honorary grandfather. When he had something to say, we all listened.

I will never forget the day John told me that my tropical updates left something to be desired. I was crushed, but that drove me, through his example, to become the best communicator, teacher and meteorologist I could be.

Tammy was director of affiliate sales and a TWC veteran. She caught my attention immediately. Like me, she was passionate about her job and a fireball of energy. She was a fantastic skier, played tennis, was involved with her church, you name it.

Maybe best of all, she understood my need to be right in the middle of the action. Whether it was a blinding snowstorm or a major hurricane, she knew I needed to get in on it to be happy.

I proposed to Tammy during a snowstorm in Colorado (I know you're probably not surprised by this) and we married in Vermont in the fall of 1990, at the peak of leaf season.

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Our daughter, Christina, came along in July of 1993 (during a record-breaking "Hot-lanta" summer day). Ben followed in July of 1995 (another "Hot-lanta" day). Having the kids hardly slowed Tammy down. In fact, nothing seemed to slow her down.

But shortly after Ben's second birthday in July of 1997, Tammy made an appointment with our chiropractor, Dr. Robert Schlampp, to figure out what was behind some symptoms she'd been experiencing. Her hand twitched and her gait had become a bit tentative.

Tamra was a vice-president at The Weather Channel by this point, but she had no trouble handling the double load of kids and work responsibilities. At least, until recently. Suddenly, she was edging through her day instead of roaring through it.

"I must have pinched a nerve from carrying Ben around so much," she told Dr. Schlampp. Tammy carried him most everywhere. Christina had been slow to walk too, so I tried not to worry.

Dr. Schlampp sent her to a neurologist. More specialists came in. Finally, a diagnosis: early onset Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is a chronic, progressive disorder of the central nervous system caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

Neurons fire out of control, leaving patients unable to direct their movements normally. From the little I knew about it, the disease affected older people. Tammy wasn't even 40 yet.

The doctors tried to put a good spin on it for us—a little like I do when I'm giving folks a rainy forecast for the weekend.