I’ve been a proud team captain for Walk to End Alzheimer’s for five years. I walk for all those living with Alzheimer’s, including myself.
I started having trouble with my memory in my 40s. I worked in a doctor’s office as a nurse and suddenly I forgot how to calculate inches to feet in height. Then, I couldn’t remember what shots were given at what age. Eventually, I forgot how to spell the doctor’s name.
My family doctor performed a mini dementia test and referred me to a memory center, where I was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. I thought of my daughter – am I going to see her get married, or see any grandchildren grow up? I’m 56 years old, and my mom is my caregiver. That is one truth I never thought was possible.
My sister reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association and I was connected with someone at my local chapter. I saw that there was a need for people who are in the early stages of dementia to meet and talk so I started the first Memory Cafe in Lancaster County. I’m also a mentor, speaking to people who are newly-diagnosed, and I raise awareness in the community by fundraising. One of the biggest ways I fundraise is through Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
I enjoy watching Walk to End Alzheimer’s continue to grow every year. Seeing donations come in that will support caregivers and those living with the disease means so much to me. Every step taken during Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a step closer to a cure, no matter where you walk. I’m lucky to use some of the skills I used as a nurse to encourage others to join me and to educate the public. And I’m not only helping them – they are helping me.
Here is what I know: Alzheimer’s is not just an old person’s disease. Alzheimer’s is not funny. Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain, not a mental health issue. Alzheimer’s doesn’t care who you are or what you do. Alzheimer’s affects us all.
Alzheimer’s diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to stop living. You still have a lot to offer to the community and a voice (and feet!) to help bring awareness to the disease. This is why I walk to end Alzheimer’s.
About the Author: On September 24, Mary Read will walk in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research, care and support resources for local communities. She encourages people with Alzheimer's and dementia to enjoy life every day. You can visit her team page here.