By Mike Zuendel
Does Alzheimer’s disease frighten me? You bet. After watching both of my parents taken away by the disease, bit by bit each and every day, I know what lies ahead. Until we can find a cure for the sixth-leading cause of death – I know there’s not a fairytale ending in store for me.
But don’t hold an Irish wake for Mike Zuendel just yet. Contrary to some people’s expectations, receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis was not the end of my life. In many ways, it’s the exact opposite.
I would like to say that Alzheimer’s doesn’t shape my life, but it does. It makes me savor every moment with my wife and my children. I relish the company of my friends. I value every minute I can spend in my favorite sport of downhill skiing. I still love to barbecue, and I have learned to search for and find gratitude each and every day.
Since my diagnosis last year, I have had the opportunity to get to know others living with Alzheimer’s as a member of the Alzheimer’s Association Early-Stage Advisory Group. If there’s one important lesson that I’ve learned from this group of my peers – people like me who must have the most-dreaded diagnosis to join – is that life does not end with the pronouncement that we have early cognitive decline.
I’m still here! I still have contributions to make to my business and to society. My family still loves and appreciates me. I still can tear up the slopes 80 days or more a year on my skis. And, in my newest passion, I can make a difference by raising awareness of Alzheimer’s. I am just one of 76,000 Coloradans, 6.2 million people in the U.S. and 50 million worldwide living with a disease that was discovered 115 years ago, and still right now is trying to damage my brain and my being. It’s time we changed that.
This year, I am walking to end Alzheimer’s disease. My family, friends and I are walking to raise funds to provide care and support for people living with Alzheimer’s and their families, and to pay for research to find a cure. Someday, my loved ones will need that support – but not if we can find a cure first. I hope you’ll join me at one of the 13 Colorado Walks to End Alzheimer’s. Go to alz.org/walk
to find the Walk closest to you.
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.