Today, I began the second half of my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail as part of The Longest Day, an event to fight Alzheimer’s. A thru-hike is a long-distance journey from trail beginning to end. I am dedicating this hike to my mother, Debbie, who at the age of 52, was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
My mother is the most caring, loving, kind-hearted, independent woman who has ever graced this earth. From the moment I was born she has encouraged me to always fight for my dreams, regardless of the trials I may encounter. This has been burned on my heart, and I have carried that with me every day.
My dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail began back in 2009. I roped my best friend into joining me. The journey was to begin after our college graduation. Little did I know, the next year my mother would be diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's at age 52 — and everything would change.
We began our hike in April 2013, but 850 miles in, I noticed my mother's Alzheimer's was making her fade quicker than when I had left. The pain in my father's voice was more evident. In late June, I pulled off of the trail. I could not justify missing a few more good months with her. Since then, my mother has progressed quite rapidly. The pain this disease has caused my mother and her loved ones is unbearable, and it is a pain felt by more than 5 million Americans who also are living with this disease.
For four years, I have fought alongside my father and brothers to make my mother's life as comfortable as possible. No longer can I sit back and watch this disease hurt more people. This is why today, I continue to hike and extend my fight further. I want to raise money to change the future of this disease.
Researchers have set the goal of finding a cure for this wretched disease by 2025. It is a lofty goal, but one that can be obtained if we all join together.
So far, I have raised $5,969 for the Alzheimer's Association. This fundraiser has been a huge support group for my family and me. By simply telling people my mother's story, they have immediately wanted to g ive what they could to the cause, and also spread the word. Some donations have been small, a couple of dollars. Others have been larger, and even entailed sports teams joining together to raise thousands of dollars. To me, this is the most beautiful thing. Knowing how much support is out there has helped me immensely in coping with my mother's condition.
Today, I am asking everyone to join me in honoring my mother and her legacy as I walk toward Mt. Katahdin. I will be in motion throughout The Longest Day, keeping hope for a future where fewer families feel the pain of this disease.
About the Author: Nancy Harringon just completed an internship at the Sierra Outdoor School. Today, she is participating in The Longest Day®, a sunrise to sunset event to honor the strength, passion and endurance of those facing Alzheimer’s.