Last year was my first experience with Ride to End ALZ, a cycling event that raises funds and awareness to advance Alzheimer’s research. Participating was extremely fulfilling because I did it with one of my closest friends, Laura. Together, on a summer day, we rode 100 miles. We did it for our moms. We did it for our families. We did it for our friends, our neighbors and our work families. And we did it for ourselves. This year, we are doing it again.
Alzheimer’s disease creates life-changing circumstances to not only the person with the disease, but their entire family. Laura and I know this first-hand. My mom, Nancy, passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s in 2010, and Laura's mom is living with the disease. I'm sure many of you have similar stories.
Making Ride to End ALZ My Own
I’ve always strived to stay physically healthy, and wanted to find something I could be consistent with that I would genuinely look forward to doing. Friends encouraged me to try cycling with them, and to my surprise, I became hooked! Since then, I’ve also come to better understand the correlation between exercise and cognitive health. Alzheimer’s and dementia run on my mom’s side of the family: she battled Alzheimer’s, as did her mom and her two sisters.
And yet my involvement in the Ride to End ALZ is bigger than my own family’s experience.
Sharing my personal story has made me realize I am not alone; I meet so many people who have been or are currently affected by this devastating disease. My heart aches knowing what they are going through. Being part of the Ride to End ALZ allows me to take action and to fulfill my personal commitment to do all I can in the fight against this disease.
The Simple Things
My mom was beautiful, loving, compassionate, smart, generous and fun. She had great devotion to her children. I admired her as a child and that admiration was deeply enriched as I became an adult.
As her illness started to progress, and her limitations began to grow, she became a powerful reminder of the importance of the ‘simple things’ in life. When walking became too difficult for her, I remember us driving through the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch and smiling at the animals. When eating solid food began to prove impossible, I remember bringing her a chocolate frosty. And when she was bedridden and could no longer talk or open her eyes, we pushed her rolling bed into the courtyard, picked flowers, and held them up to her in hopes she could smell them.
These and so many other examples are the gifts my sweet mom left for me. When life starts posing challenges, I think of these gifts. It always keeps my perspective grounded and serves as a reminder that she is still with me.
When I connect with others in the Alzheimer’s community, it brings up a mix of emotions. It’s sadness with bouts of solace. It’s pain comforted through encouragement. It’s heartache and heartwarming at the same time.
No one really wants to be in this community. I didn’t. But when you find yourself here, it is a community with an incredible abundance of support, compassion, strength and — most importantly — HOPE. Hope is a powerful word. It is promising. It is encouraging. I know I’m full of hope; hope for emerging and enhanced resources, hope for effective treatments, but most importantly, hope for a cure.
Alzheimer’s affects everyone. For some, it’s a very direct impact. For others, it may be indirect, but no less impactful. And for those who have not yet been affected, there is a high probability they may have an experience with the disease at some point in their lives. Consequently, we all should get involved, whether as a cyclist, a donor or volunteer. Any way you can join the fight is crucial to this cause. Learn more about how you can join me at alz.org/RIDE.
About: Cathy Harm is a VP with grocery retailer H-E-B, which has a sponsorship and fundraising goal of $30,000+ for the 2021 Ride to End ALZ. Cathy is currently a top fundraiser, raising more than $11,000. “I want to thank my H-E-B work family and all those who have supported me, whether cheering me on, donating to the cause, or joining my team,” she says. “Their generosity through their support, time, talent and gifts is significantly impactful to over 16 million Americans facing this disease.” The Texas Ride to End ALZ event is on Sunday, October 10. Learn more about how you can get involved.
The second photo in this blog features Cathy with her mom, dad and four brothers.